A THEFT of a rhino head from a museum in Surrey is thought to have been motivated by the hugely valuable trade in rhino horn.
Nothing else was taken by burglars who broke into the Educational Museum in Haslemere, early on May 27 before fleeing after setting off an alarm.
Surrey police are investigating whether the gang could have stolen the head in order to remove its horns and sell them for use in alternative medicines. Meanwhile auctioneers and dealers are urged to keep an eye out for the head, in case it turns up in a saleroom or is offered to a gallery.
The rhino was on display in the mammal collection which houses 250 specimens mostly from England and Africa. It had been an exhibit at the museum since 1929.
Under new CITES guidelines published in February, DEFRA no longer recognise mounted rhino horn trophies as 'worked' items and they are illegal to sell.
Sections of head with horn(s) attached (e.g. such as a pair of horns joined by a section of skin/skull) are also not considered to meet the worked definition, but full taxidermied heads with horn(s) attached, such as this one, are considered to meet the 'worked' definition and can be sold.
That is why whole heads are attractive to thieves, as proved to be the case at Essex auction house Sworders on February 21, when a moth-eaten head of an African black rhino, due to be sold the next day, was stolen in a raid.
It had been estimated at £20,000-30,000.