BERLIN — A gang of four has carried out an “unbelievably audacious” theft of rhino horns worth €50000, German police said on Tuesday, the latest in what appears to be a spate of similar robberies.
As two of the suspected thieves distracted staff at a museum in Offenburg, south-western Germany, the other two clambered on a display case, removed a rhino head from a wall and smashed off the horns with hammers, police said.
“Then everything happened in the blink of an eye,” police said in a statement. “The two men stuffed the horns into a bag and left the museum. At the same time, the other two lost interest in their chat with staff members and followed their accomplices.”
The rhino head was left behind during the suspected robbery, which happened on Saturday afternoon, according to authorities.
Rhino horn is especially prized in Asia where many consider it to have aphrodisiac and disease-fighting properties.
The perpetrators “acted with unbelievable audacity”, the police said, adding: “The way they carried it out leads one to believe that this is an international, well-organised group.”
Similar thefts have occurred throughout Europe, with some museums taking the unusual step of replacing their rhino horns with fake ones to deter robberies.
Rhino horns can fetch between €25000 and €200000 depending on their size.
Last week, South African National Parks said the country had lost 52 rhinos to poachers so far this year and arrested 30 people in connection with rhino poaching.
South Africa lost 448 rhinos to poaching last year, up 34% from the 333 animals lost in 2010, and there is concern that the country could suffer a species decline by mid-year.
Article courtesy of: http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=165470 SAPA-AFP with SUE BLAINE