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article imageStolen rhino horns could be deadly

By Chris V. Thangham     Apr 15, 2008 in Crime
Two 19th century rhino horns drenched in poison were stolen from a South African museum. Authorities fear they are being exported to Asia and when used as a popular aphrodisiac, they may become deadly.
Taxidermists prepared these rare 19th century rhino horns with arsenic and preserved them from insect infestation by applying a chemical called DDT. Both these are extremely toxic in nature and remain poisonous for a long period of time.
The priceless horns were stolen from a display at the historic mammal gallery in Cape Town last Saturday according to Jatti Bredekamp, chief executive of Iziko Museums.
Bredekamp said in a statement:
Unknowingly, the thieves have exposed themselves to more than the danger of arrest and prosecution…Before the mid-twentieth century, taxidermy mounts were prepared by being soaked in arsenic and preserved from insect infestation through regular applications of DDT, both highly toxic poisons that retain their toxicity over time.
Bredekamp believes the stolen horns will be taken to Asia where they consider them a prized aphrodisiac. He said anyone who touches the horns will be put in considerable danger.
Rhino populations have fallen dramatically over the last few decades as poaching has decimated the animals across Africa.
Bredekamp said rhino horns are in short supply, so the thieves are targeting museums to steal horns and other artifacts to sell them illegally. Now the museums are taking extra precautions.
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