Thieves steal rhino horn worth €500,000

Simon Stephens, 22.04.2013
Raid on National Museum of Ireland storage site
A gang of thieves stole rhinoceros horn worth an estimated €500,000 from a National Museum of Ireland storage facility in Dublin last week.

The raid took place on 17 April when a gang overpowered and tied up a security guard.

A statement from the Gardaí said: “At about 10.40 pm three masked men entered the building and tied up the security man on duty. The three men loaded rhino heads and horns from the building into a large white van.

“The raiders were in the building for approximately one hour. The security man, who was uninjured, later freed himself and raised the alarm.”

A statement from the National Museum of Ireland said: “The stolen rhinoceros heads have a total of eight horns that have probably been taken to supply the illegal trade in powdered horn that is used in traditional medicines in the Far East.

“Their price is based on weight and the total amount stolen could have a street value in the region of €500,000.”

The National Museum of Ireland is conducting a full review of security following the theft.

Nigel Monaghan, a keeper in the Natural History Division at the National Museum of Ireland, said the stolen specimens were moved into storage more than a year ago following a spate of thefts from museum across Europe. There are no rhinoceros horns on display in the National Museum of Ireland’s natural history building.

Monaghan added that he was not aware of any of Irish museum with rhino horns or decorative art objects made from rhino horn on public display.


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MA Member
25.04.2013, 10:18
Do you think those doing the thefts or those turning the horns into herbal medicines are aware or even care that early taxidermy methods involved using arsenic and other chemical nasties? Ironically, the chemicals used to preserve the horns could potentially cause illnesses that the herbal rhino horn remedies are created to cure!
MA Member
23.04.2013, 11:27
This issue is increasingly becoming a worry for museums who hold rhino heads. With that in mind, I wonder if the MA could put together a list of people to contact in confidence for advice about caring for rhino horn, eg should you remove the horn, how should the horn be stored etc. At our museum we have had some very good advice from the NHM and a Museum Security Advisor about this issue
Patrick Steel
MA Member
Website Editor, Museums Association
23.04.2013, 12:02
Hi Anonymous -

We put together just such a list for our Museum Practice special on Security:

If your museum is in England, the best place for you to start would be Arts Council England - national security adviser William Brown took part in our webchat earlier this month on how to make sure your museum is secure:

Hope this is helpful!