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Sawn off rhino horn found in Cornwall sea cave with historic smugglers ties

By March 15, 2023Wildlife Crime

The sawn off rhino horn found by John Roundhill in the the Willy Wilcox Cottage cave in Polperro (Image: John Roundhill)

By Olivier Vergnault, Cornwall Live | March 14, 2023

The unusual find at Polperro does not appear to have been in the sea for very long.

A Cornwall seaside resident was left baffled and rather disgusted after discovering the most unusual item in the cave on the beach below his house – a sawn-off rhino horn. John Roundhill was walking down into the cave that sits under his home at Willy Wilcox Cottage in Polperro, near Looe in south east Cornwall, when he came across a thick chunk of what looked at first like a bit of wood.

After picking it up, the personnel head hunter thought it could be a horse hoof. However when he got one of his friends on the case, it was confirmed as a rhino horn that had been sawn off, probably from a live animal in sub-Saharan Africa.John said: “I was showing some visitors the cave at low tide when I discovered a sawn-off rhino horn wedged into a crevice. My friend who used to live in Africa and still has plenty of contact over there contacted rangers who confirmed it was from a rhino. I was astounded, frankly, that it was here and, I admit, a little disgusted that it had been sawn off an live animal.”

Willy Wilcox Cave is a well-known tourist attraction in Polperro as it was reputedly used by the famous eponymous smuggler who is said to have lived in the house above and apparently a passage existed from the cave to the house. John said all the information he managed to gather points towards the posterior horn on a rhino’s head rather than the tall pointy one at the front.

“It’s certainly the first time I have ever discovered anything remotely like this on the beach,” John said. “It doesn’t look like it’s been in the water for month and months. There’s no barnacles or algae. It’s a bit damaged on the top. But it just begs the question how it got there?”

John thought the unusual find could have been thrown overboard from a boat after it was discovered and whoever discarded it decided they did not want to be found with poached wildlife onboard. Or it was in someone’s house in Cornwall and perhaps belonged to someone with historic connections to Africa, who, again, did not want any association with the gruesome find.

“I took it to the police,” John added, “in case they had any ongoing investigations into animal poaching or ivory smuggling – that kind of things. But they didn’t. The plan is to give to animal charity so it can be disposed of appropriately.”

The brown rhino horn measures about 20 centimetres in diameter at the base and about 11cm in height. It is worn at the top and is missing a piece. Rhino horns are similar in structure to horses’ hooves, turtle beaks and cockatoo bills.

Read the original story here.