News24

Two rhino horns snatched in Vienna

2011-11-09 22:32

Vienna - Thieves made away with a second rhinoceros horn in Vienna, police announced on Wednesday, after a first one was snatched at an auction house in the capital earlier this week.

The two horns were among five to be put up for sale by the Dorotheum auction house on Monday.

Before the sale however, two men asked to see two pieces and then, in front of the Dorotheum staff, snatched them and ran away.

A staff member managed to seize one of the horns again, but the thieves got away with the other one.

The retrieved piece was eventually sold in the afternoon auction for €85 700.

The next day, another of the horns that was auctioned off was then stolen from its new owner, a taxidermist.

Two men, only described as speaking English, visited the man's shop and made off with the horn when the owner left them alone to take a phone call, police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The taxidermist had acquired the 39cm horn for €24 700 at the Dorotheum sale.

No more horns

While both thefts were similar in many ways, "these were unquestionably different people", a police spokesperson insisted on Wednesday.

The Dorotheum house meanwhile announced: "We will no longer accept and auction off rhinoceros horns."

The theft of rhino horns has surged across Europe, with around 20 cases reported this year alone, including in France, Belgium, Britain and Portugal, in what investigators believe is the work of an international gang.

Rhino poaching has been on the rise due to a high demand for the animals' horns in Asian medicinal treatments, especially in Vietnam where it is believed to cure cancer.

Booming demand has driven the price to half a million dollars per horn, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.