Police have revealed that the lone security guard on duty Wednesday night at the museum’s storeroom in Swords, north of Dublin, was tied up by three masked men who broke into the building. The security guard later managed to free himself and raise the alarm.
During the raid, the thieves managed to escape with the heads of three black rhinos from Kenya, as well as one from a northern white rhino, a subspecies on the very brink of extinction. The horned mammals had all been killed more than a century ago and, until recently, had been on public display at the museum itself. The rhino heads, each of which sports two valuable horns, had been removed from the exhibit last year and placed in storage, in order to protect them from being targeted by thieves.
Nigel Monaghan, keeper at the museum’s Natural History section, has said that, based on their weight, the eight horns could be worth up to £430,000 on the black market. Despite being made of keratin, the same fibrous protein that makes up our own hair and nails, and having no documented medicinal value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine.
In countries such as China and Viet Nam, powdered rhino horn is marketed as being an aphrodisiac and a cure for serious diseases, including cancer. As a result, rhino horn is considered to be extremely valuable, and its illegal trade has led to three of the five rhino species in Africa and South Asia being classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Read more on this story at The Guardian – Rhino heads seized in gang raid on Ireland’s national museum.
Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author