Rhino horn thefts rise as price rockets

LONDON Fri Jul 8, 2011 2:13pm BST

A Thai customs official displays seized ivory tusks during a news conference at the customs office of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok February 25, 2011. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

A Thai customs official displays seized ivory tusks during a news conference at the customs office of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok February 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Sukree Sukplang

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LONDON (Reuters) - As the price of rhino horn soars to twice that of gold, police have warned museums to take precautions after a spate of thefts.

In the last six months, some 20 thefts of horn have been recorded from museums and auction houses across the UK and Europe, according to the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit.

Organised criminal gangs are often using "smash and grab" raids and have shown they are willing to use force, the unit said in a statement.

It said the increase has been triggered by a significant rise in the value of rhino horn, used in traditional Asian medicine, which can now reach up to 60,000 pounds per kilo, twice the value of gold.

Several significant seizures have been made recently by customs officers worldwide, and there has been a great increase in rhinoceros poaching in South Africa, it added.

"We advise all museums, auction houses, stately homes or private individuals who are in possession of rhino horns to be extra vigilant and review their security arrangements," the unit said.

"Consideration should be given to removing rhino horns from public display and storing them in secure locations, informing the public that the items have been removed."

(Reporting by Sarah Metcalf; Editing by Steve Addison)

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