[credit provider=”Flickr Wooly Matt” url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/woolner/2380771493/”]
Here’s a European problem that has flown under the radar thanks to the continent’s ongoing financial issues: post-mortem poaching.There have been three reported taxidermied rhinoceros heads stolen from museums in Belgium and France in the past couple of months, with the latest theft happening this weekend at a natural history museum in Blois, France, according to AFP.
The thieves broke into the museum and dragged the head—which is more than 200 years old and weighs 220 pounds—across the floor as they were escaping.
It’s not known whether Saturday’s theft is related to two other recent rhino robberies.
In the first case, which happened at a zoological museum in Liége, Belgium, on June 16, a man pulled off a rhinoceros’ horn and sprayed museum employees with tear gas before running to a getaway car escaping for the Netherlands, according to AFP.
The two men involved in that incident were arrested later that day. The thief who broke into the building told investigators that a mystery buyer wanted him to leave the horn at the base of a statue in a Dutch town called Helmond, where he would be paid $4,275.
It took three men to steal the second rhino head from the Natural History Museum of Belgium in Brussels last week, according to RTL. Police said the thieves bust through the window and also escaped in a getaway car as the museum was closing for the night.
So why rhinoceros heads?
The animals have long been victims of poaching because their horns—believed to be aphrodisiacal in ancient Chinese culture—rake in money on the black market. A rhino horn can sell for up to $14,000 in China, and with strict global laws protecting this highly endangered species, it looks like poachers are starting to resort to stealing the horns from any rhinoceros they can find, alive or dead.