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4 rhinoceros heads stolen from museum warehouse

April 20, 2013 at 1:26 AM

DUBLIN, Ireland, April 20 (UPI) -- An Irish National Museum official says four rhinoceros heads stolen from a museum warehouse are probably headed to the Chinese medicine trade.

Nigel Monaghan, a museum keeper, told the Irish Independent the heads were put in storage last year because of a rash of thefts from museums elsewhere in Europe. The Collections Resource Center in Swords, a Dublin suburb, was robbed Wednesday night by three masked men who overpowered and tied up a security guard.

"We took a decision a couple of years ago, largely on garda [police] advice and also from monitoring the traffic internationally, following a steady rise of theft of rhino horn," Monaghan said. "The pattern was to smash and grab, even when the museums were open, and we did not want to put the public at risk."

Monaghan said the thieves, unless they are caught, will probably sell the horns to be ground up for use in traditional Chinese medicine, where practitioners believe it is effective against fever and convulsions. He said the eight horns might bring 500,000 euros ($650,000).

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