Poaching from the New Savannah

Allison Guy
October 19th 2011

The Ipswich Museum, the Tring Museum, and around 30 other European cultural institutions and antiques dealers have experienced a rash of theft over the last few months. What turns an everyday crime into next natural poaching is the strange selectivity of these thieves. Despite having a selection of priceless artifacts to choose from, the robbers have only targeted rhinoceros horn.

A coveted commodity in Chinese Traditional Medicine, powdered rhinoceros horn is worth around €68,000 a kilo: twice the value of gold. Rhino horns are made of the same material as hooves and fingernails, and have the same lack of actual medical effectiveness. Authorities are urging museums, auction houses, and taxidermists to lock away their horns, and replace any horns on display with fake ones. Naturalis Museum in Rotterdam recently moved all of their rhino collection to a secure, secret location.

Wild rhinos have become so scarce that poachers must turn to long-dead, taxidermied specimens for their crimes. In the case of the Ipswich Museum, Rosie the Rhino was last shuffling around India sometime in the late 1800s. We already know that the supermarket is the new savanna. Who would have guessed that the new savanna is also in museum storage?

Story via the New York Times.  Image of the (fake) Naturalis rhinos via Ferdi's World.

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