by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Blog Contributor
Over the course of the summer, museums throughout Europe have been targeted by thieves in search of rhino horns. When I last wrote about this strange series of events in June, the theory that was floating around in the news was that the thieves were looking to make a profit on the black market, selling the horns off to people wanting ivory or the medicinal properties associated with these horns. Museums had been urged to take their horns off display and store them off-site to avoid being added to the growing list of those robbed.
Things have changed since then.
The Ipswich Museum has been added to the list of museums hit by the rhino horn thieves. As the Museum Journal reports, “According to law enforcement agency Europol, the recent spate of thefts is the work of an Irish gang.” The rhino horns are being sold for very large amounts of money to people looking to benefit from the medicinal properties which are rumored to include curing cancer and reversing the effects of a stroke. However, this may not be the case given the new steps that museums are taking to protect their collections: taxidermy heads and cast horns. The problem with taxidermy is that it involves arsenic and could taint the horns which could be harmful if they are digested.
Definitely not the cure for cancer that someone out there is looking for.
Ms. Hower, a former ARCA 2011 Intern, now studying Arts of Europe at Christie's Education in London, also blogs at The Wandering Scholar.