Belfast Telegraph

Museum removes horns after thefts

Rhino horns have been removed from the Natural History Museum over fears the exhibits will be stolen.

Curators decided to replace the horns in the so-called Dead Zoo with replicas because of a spate of robberies across Europe that put visitors and staff at risk.

The National Museum of Ireland said it regrets that the objects are no longer on view but that it had to take the decision in light of the security, health and safety risks involved.

The illegal sale of rhino horn is now worth more than gold, diamonds, heroin or cocaine and is reported to be 60,000 euro a kilogram.

A museum spokeswoman said: "This increased risk to specimens on display in the Natural History Museum has been tackled by the removal of trophy heads from exhibition and the removal of horns from the large pieces of taxidermy on open display.

"These will be replaced by replica horns."

Rhinos are poached in the wild for their horns, made of keratin, and sold on the black market for ornamental or medicinal purposes, particularly in Asia and for Chinese herbal medicine.

Europol last year revealed an organised crime gang from Ireland was masterminding the illegal trade in rhino horns around the world. The group, believed to be from the Traveller community, were targeting auction rooms, galleries, museums, zoos and private collections in Europe to steal the rare specimens.

They were then exploiting lucrative legal trade and selling them on to contacts in North and South America, South Africa, China and Australia for up to 200,000 euro a time.

The two African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have a single horn.

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