Thieves Hitting Museums to Steal ... Rhino Horns

Powder made from it sells for more than heroin
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2011 1:56 PM CDT
Thieves Busting Into European Museums to Steal Rhino Horns
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY Laurent Thomet A picture taken on July 1, 2009 shows a rhinoceros walking at an animal reserve in western Africa.The emergence of museum horn thefts coincides with a surge in poaching of live rhinos in Africa. Robberies of rhino horns have been reported by museums in Portugal,...   (Getty Images)

Ponder the things you'd expect a thief to steal from a museum. OK, was a rhinoceros horn on your list? Yeah, we didn't think so. The New York Times reports on a surprising new trend sweeping Europe, which has seen 30 such thefts from museums, galleries, auction houses, and more this year alone. At the Ipswich Museum last month, thieves "just snapped" the horn off of a rhino that had been on display since 1907, explains a local official. It may seem like a bizarre crime, until you consider that the powder made from grinding rhino horns—which many in Asia consider an aphrodisiac and cancer cure—sells for an estimated $45,000 a pound on the black market.

That's more than gold or heroin fetches, notes the Times, which explains that a recent crackdown on the export of rhino horns has made them all the more valuable. A London detective recommends that institutions that possess a rhino remove images of it from their websites, or follow London's Natural History Museum's lead and replace the real horn with a fake one. The director of one auction house that had a rhino horn stolen agrees: "Do not have it on display. Put a dummy up and booby-trap it." (More rhinoceros stories.)

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