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Rhino Horns Stolen From Museums, Sold on Black Market in Asia

Rhino Horns Stolen From Museums, Sold on Black Market in Asia


The taste for shark fin to make soup has sparked a huge demand in recent years for the delicacy among China’s growing middle class. The sale of shark fin is not banned in China, where there’s also a market for the parts of other rare animals. Traditional Chinese medicine uses powdered rhino horn and, says the Guardian, there’s an “epidemic” of thefts of rhino horns from stuffed and mounted animals in museums across Europe.

The BBC has a photo of the now horn-less Rosie the Rhino. Rosie lived on the Indian subcontinent in the early 20th century and was acquired in 1907 by the Ipswich Museum. The museum is currently working on creating a replica horn that will be tightly screwed in place.

The powdered rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine for fevers, headache, cancer and as beauty products (used by the likes of Elle McPherson). It’s worth about $98,000 per kilogram, which is twice the value of gold. On the medicinal market, a rhino head could be worth $325,000.

In the past six months, rhino horns and heads have been stolen from museums in Portugal, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Sweden and the UK:

In February, the stuffed and mounted head of a black rhino was taken from Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex. On 27 May, a similar head was taken from the Educational Museum in Haslemere, Surrey, which has one of the largest natural history collections in the UK. Last month it was the turn of a museum in Liège, Belgium; three weeks later the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences in Brussels suffered a similar heist, in which the head of a black rhino, dating from 1827, was stolen.

As a result of the thefts, several museums and other institutions including the Natural History Museum and the Horniman Museum in south London have removed their stuffed rhinos from display, as advised by Scotland Yard and Europol.

The thefts have been attributed to a gang of “Irish ethnic origin” with a “background in violence, drug trafficking and intimidation,” says the Guardian; the stolen rhino horns and heads are then sold on the black market to “some Asian communities.” The BBC says that Europol has actually “uncovered an Irish organised crime group illegally trading rhino horn worth tens of thousands of euros as far afield as China.”

According to Save the Rhino International, there are 20,000 white rhinos in the wild and fewer than 5,000 black ones. The poaching of live rhinos is even more of a problem. Nearly 200 rhinos have been killed in South Africa in the first six months of this year, compared with 125 in the same time period last year — now, not even stuffed rhinos are safe.

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Photo by Lip Kee

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7:42PM PST on Feb 23, 2012

tsk tsk this is too bad. it rhinos should be taken care of in the wild not by killing them by the hunters. and it is a sad thing too when they the head of the black rhino has been stolen. it should be kept safe in the museum. we in is an animal lover ;)

1:08PM PST on Dec 27, 2011

Ugh, once again.... China.

9:58AM PST on Dec 27, 2011

this is sick and cruel. i have not words to discribe this acts , htis crimes. the rhinos are almost gone for god sake. the whole world should do somehting.

3:43AM PST on Dec 27, 2011

Also, the press should omit dropping the "merchandize" value in these worldwide articles, greed has no pity.

3:41AM PST on Dec 27, 2011

The BBC should drop all sales of Rhino horn, ivory and wildlife products on the Antique Roadshow and similar where the airing of staggering prices fuel poaching horror. Media should be held responsible and forced to consider the consequences of such info falling in the wrong attention. I bet this generation will see avengers appearing and taking violent aim at this market, for it truly is an insult to life.

10:51AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

it makes me sick...

10:25PM PDT on Aug 13, 2011

China is to -blame for killing the rhinos,you would think they would know by now ,what they are led to believe about the weird and wonderful concoctions they brew up with animal parts are just handed down superstitious nonsense ,their libido must be near nonexistent as they are always grinding up some poor animal in hopes to improve it.

6:09PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

It's a cruel world for animals.

1:14PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Don't talk to me about the Chinese E.g. Tiger Parts, Sharks fins, eating cats dogs and Rhino Horns. It makes me sick to the heart to read about them.

10:33PM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

Just sick. The problem is really the buyers. If there was no buyer, there would be no incentive.

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