Rhino horn thieves foiled!

August 28, 2011 • 11:12 am

by Greg Mayer

Jerry has called attention to the problem of theft of rhino horns from museums and other collections in Europe, citing a NY Times piece from Friday. Officials at the Natural History Museum at Tring (Lord Rothschild‘s former private museum) were aware of the problem, and ready for it. Thieves broke into the Museum early Saturday morning, and made off with two horns, but the horns were fakes! As the BBC put it:

Unfortunately for them [the thieves], staff at the Hertfordshire museum were aware of the string of thefts from other museums and auction houses, and had swapped the real rhino horns for carefully crafted fakes, almost indistinguishable from the real thing. And totally worthless.

Here’s one of the afflicted rhinos:

Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) at the Tring Musuem, from which thieves removed a fake horn. Photo issued by Natural History Museum.

The real horns are safe at the museum. The Associated Press provides a further account.

28 thoughts on “Rhino horn thieves foiled!

      1. Moreover, the fake horns will be as valuable on the black market. Musea could use this as a source of money.

  1. Why not a fake horn with exploding ink? With an electronic transmitter pin-pointing the location of the dastardly lair?

  2. How about a nice radioactive marker, that’s shielded until the horn is cut! If it damages the thieves, who cares.

    Sorry, losing perspective as the radon level climbs in my house… (yes, it is scheduled to be mitigated.)

  3. BBC: carefully crafted fakes, almost indistinguishable from the real thing. And totally worthless.

    Hardly worthless. If they are “carefully crafted fakes” they will probably sell just as fast on the black market as the real thing. And as Chayanov pointed out above, they will work just as well as the real thing.

    1. This should be one of the prime ways to thwart the use of rare animal organs and body parts.

      Develop really good fakes for these prized items and flood the smuggling/poaching channels with these forgeries.

      That would drive the price down and greatly reduce the incentive to poach/steal these body parts.

  4. Hey, if they dilute the rhino horn powder homeopathically, one horn (real or fake) should provide enough magic boner power until the sun goes nova.

  5. Rhino horn, sigh, why don’t the idiots who buy this stuff just chew their own fingernails? It would be a lot cheaper too. Or use Viagra which actually works?

  6. The phrase “suck shit” comes to mind. If the thief(or thieves) are captured, perhaps they could be forced to take the (fake) horn as a suppository?

  7. First comment on your blog and it’s a bit of a correction. I hope you take notice, some bloggers ignore their commenters.

    The myth of Rhinohorns giving you “great power” in the pants is itself a myth it seems.

    It seems so easy to imagine that those irrational asian medicine types would think horn of the rhino would work as a sexual stimulant, it seems it’s just a western notion of chinese medicine.

    Now I’m not defending traditional Chinese medicine at all, merely that our notions (of what they believe) are disputable

    1. A couple things:
      1) I was one of those persons under that mistaken impression (but it was corrected up above) – am now acknowledging my mistake though. Thanks for the link and correction.

      2) it’s not a blog, but a website. Not my rules. 🙂

      1. correction: it was Microraptor who first clued me into rhino horn as a fever remedy. (in the previous thread on rhino horns). Difficult to keep the woo myths distinct. Thanks for the additional ref!

          1. I’m starting to feel like that time it was insisted to me that in Montana, we’re supposed to say “was” after “if”.

            Blogroll then.

    2. It’s a little hard to believe that people are paying $200,000 (per the original story) for a horn to make a ceremonial dagger or to grind up for fever relief or just general medicine. Seems like it would take a belief that it’s an aphrodisiac to make it worth so much. Maybe the black marketers haven’t read the story you link to, and so believe the myth about the myth.

      1. It’s also hard to believe that people would pay thousands of dollars for an oversized mushroom, but that is the going rate for some truffles.

        Speculation on my part, but I suspect it’s just the CTM practitioners who pay that much for the horns which they grind up and mix with other ingredients to make the medicine so that one horn that they paid $200,000 for ends up getting sold for consumption for a cumulative total of $300,000 or so.

        As for the dagger handles, well, wealthy people have been willing to pay outrageous prices for outrageous items for thousands of years.

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