All That Glisters – Indeed!

The price of rhinoceros horn has risen in recent years as rhino have had more and more protection. It’s a little ironic that the very part of their anatomy that has evolved for their protection is now the biggest source of the threat to their survival.

Their horns sell for about $100k per kg in the market places of eastern Asia, which becomes a tempting price to poachers with guns. It is not just the rhinos who are running around that are at risk of a nose clipping. Those stuffed and in museums are also under threat.

The museum raids aren’t new, though. I can recall the rhino in the Bristol, UK, museum that was out in the open and small kids would surreptitiously take a ride on its back. It had a horn that was apparently wearing away steadily over a long period. Somebody was quietly scraping away at it and rushing off for a Friday night special.

I visited it one day and found it wearing a plastic bag on its head. It then went on vacation and returned to reside in a large glass cabinet. The museum guys told me that its horn had become fragile from the demand and it was replaced. The one on the beast that had been so popular had actually been a fake and was made of plaster. I guess the placebo effect is live and well in that city.

The horny horn raiders are getting bolder. The BBC reports that they smashed down the Tring Museum’s front doors to grab two horns off stuffed rhinos (1). These were large weighty horns that would have been worth about a third of a million dollars if they hadn’t been fakes made of polyester resin.

The police are now searching for a couple of very disappointed guys whose actions certainly cast a pall over last week end in Tring and probably many week ends to come!


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