Another Rhino Horn Theft in the UK

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A museum is the latest target of rhino horn smugglers.


In yet another indication that the illegal rhino horn trade is truly a global scourge, a rhino head was reportedly stolen from the Haslemere Educational Museum in Surrey, England.

The museum’s curator noted that the rhino head was the only item missing.

BBC news reported that this rhino head theft was not an isolated incident, and police suspect that the horns are being acquired for the traditional Chinese medicine market.

Det Con Dave Pellatt, of Surrey Police, said there had been similar thefts elsewhere in Europe where the animal heads had been found minus the horns.

He suggested they had been sold on to be used in alternative medicines.

Read the entire article at Rhinoceros head stolen from Haslemere museum.

UK issues total ban on sale of mounted rhino horn

In February 2011, the European Commission issued a serious crackdown on abuse of legal trade loopholes by making it illegal to sell antique rhino horn trophies and mounted rhino horns in the UK.

The newly implemented EC guidance states that a rhino horn mounted on a plaque, shield or other type of base has not been sufficiently altered from its natural state to be included in the derogation for ‘worked’ specimens in Article 2(w) of the EC Regulations (the ‘antiques derogation’).

The crackdown was in response to an alarming number of buyers from the Far East. Investigators determined that these individuals were paying unprecedented prices for mounted rhino horn, with the intention of exporting the horns and having them manufactured into traditional Chinese medicines.

For example, a buyer from mainland China paid a record £106,000 (USD $164,046) for a mounted rhino horn trophy.

Earlier attempts made by the UK CITES management authorities in to tighten controls on rhino horn trade were not sufficient, as Chinese buyers quickly found a loophole.

Caroline Rigg, office manager at the Wildlife Licensing Unit, conceded that a loophole quickly exploited by Chinese buyers was the derogation that exports of mounted horn were permitted if the item was being moved alongside other personal effects or as part of a family relocation.

However, just days after the UK instituted the new restrictions, a mounted black rhino head was stolen from Sworder’s Auctioneers.

Apparently, the rhino trophy was discovered for sale on the Sworder’s Auctioneers website.

According to Nick Thompson of the Saffron Waldon Reporter, no other items were reported missing.

And last week in Australia, Theodore Bruce Auctions announced that a “massive” antique rhino horn trophy with an estimated value of $30,000 to $40,000 fetched a record $112,000 after a bidding war.

…four phone bidders from Australia and overseas battled against four determined bidders in the room. With an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000 the bidding started at $20,000 and after several tense minutes it was knocked down for an Australian record price of $112,000, or $134,400 including premium, to applause from the crowd in the room.

No information about the identity or location of the buyer was provided.

A Javan rhino head had previously sold for a surprisingly high price at an antiques auction in Sydney.

Laundering rhino horn

Legalized trade in endangered species, such as rhino horn, is commonly used as a smokescreen by dealers and traders who forge paperwork and launder illegal wildlife products. For example, South African trophy hunts have become a well-known way to launder illegal rhino horn.

Regarding antiques and taxidermy items, rhino horn dealers profit by selling legally acquired products for processing into traditional medicines. Rhino horn is in still high demand for use in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, despite the fact that rhino horn has been extensively analyzed and actually contains no medicinal properties. (Read the entire article at Busting the Rhino Horn Medicine Myth with Science.)

In 2010, CITES warned that antique rhino horn leaking into the illegal market could have serious consequences for the eventual consumer, since the use of arsenic was a common practice in older trophy preparations.


Image © Saving Rhinos LLC

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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  1. Destroy all horn now….and drown Asia in publicity stuff……………..