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Man shot dead during poaching incident at Limpopo game farm (South Africa)

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Review | March 12, 2020

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LIMPOPO: A suspected poacher has been shot dead during a poaching incident on a game farm in Dorset outside Lephalale on Tuesday, 10 March, says the police.

The man was reportedly shot and killed after he tried to shoot at the security officers on the said farm.

Police Spokesperson, Brig Motlafela Mojapleo reports: “It is alleged gunshots were heard at around 03:00 and when security officers went to investigate they encountered three unknown male suspects, one reportedly armed with a rifle. When the officers attempted to arrest the group the armed suspect apparently tried to shoot them and was then shot and killed in the process. The remaining two suspects disappeared into the nearby bushes.”

Original photo as published by Review Online. Photos: Limpopo Police

On the scene police found two dehorned rhino carcasses and an axe. Three rhino horns had already been cut off. Further investigations led to the discovery of a rifle with three rounds of ammunition.

A case of murder, of rhino poaching and the possession of unlawful firearms and ammunition is being investigated.

The police have also launched a manhunt for the remaining two suspects and requested anyone with information that can lead to their arrest to contact WO JJ van Heerden at 082 414 2337.

Alternatively they can contact the 24-hour Crime stop number at 0860010111 or the nearest police station.

Police investigations still continue.

 

Uganda’s wildlife recovering

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Titus Kakembo, New Vision | February 12, 2020

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Tourism

While population numbers of wild animals are on a steady growth, the Uganda government whose booming tourism industry is largely nature-based cannot layback as poachers and traffickers are getting better equipped and operate across borders and continents.

“Our elephants’ number dropped from 60,000 in the 1960s to 2,000 thirty years ago,” said Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director, Sam Mwandah. “But today Uganda is the only country in Africa with a steadily growing population of elephants standing at more than 6,000 today.”

The rhinos at Ziwa ranch are breeding better than their counterparts at Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) that have failed to reproduce.

Original photo by Robin Moore

“By 1896 Uganda had its last rhino poached for its horn and meat,” said Mwandah. “It has taken us resources and decades to get where we are after translocation. At that point, we are challenged to conserve what is left.”

Mwandah and other conservation players were in Kampala to inaugurate the National Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force (NWCCTF) on Tuesday. They comprise Uganda Revenue Authority, the judiciary, customs, Civil Aviation Authority, and many others.

“All it takes is all of NWCCTF is to coordinate if: ivory tusks, pangolins, and rhino horns are to stop costing our animals their lives. Leave alone crippling the tourism industry billions of money,” said Mwandah.

“Worse still Uganda’s image is being tarnished because traffickers from war-torn neighbouring countries use Uganda as a transit route when destined to Asia, EU, and the USA.”

Addressing the newly formed team, the Minister of Tourism, Tom Butime urged them to polarise the Wildlife Act among the populace, compensate the communities whose gardens or livestock is destroyed by straying wildlife from the protected areas.

“The trick is for the law enforcers to be ahead of the criminals and be able to halt a crime before it is committed,” stressed Butime. “That way our Big Cats will recover to satisfy our tourists.”

The World Conservation Society (WSC) officer, Dr. Simon Takozekibi reminded the audience how: poverty, political strife, and insecurity often rob the population of their heritage and livelihood.

“Poaching is to livelihoods as dangerous as the effects of climate change,” said Takozekibi. “To combat poaching there is a need for technical expertise, better funding, research and leveraging with the rest of the world to combat it.”

Alleged rhino horn poaching kingpin in court (South Africa)

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Mervyn Naidoo, The Independent Online / Sunday Tribune | February 4, 2020

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DURBAN: Former Hawks detective, Jean Pierre van Zyl Roux, is the State’s key witness in a rhino poaching trial that is due to resume at the Mtubatuba Regional Court on Tuesday.

Roux arrested Dumisani Gwala, who allegedly is a kingpin in a rhino poaching syndicate that has a strong presence in KwaZulu Natal, during a 2014 sting operation he led in Manguzi, an area near the Mozambique border.

Original photo as published by IOL: Alleged rhino horn poaching kingpin, Dumisani Gwala outside the Mtubatuba Regional Court.

Gwala along with his two accomplices, Wiseman Makeba and Aubrey Dlamini, faced 10 charges related to activities involving threatened and protected species, which included the buying and selling of rhino horns.

Gwala has two further charges to his name: resisting arrest and attempted murder. The State alleged he disarmed and tried to shoot a policeman during the 2014 bust.

After more than 20 adjournments the matter eventually began before magistrate Celumusa Zungu in April last year, with Roux as the State’s first witness.

The matter was halted temporarily, due to Dlamini being unwell. He has since passed away.

Roux is expected back in the witness stand when proceedings resume and is to be crossed examined by the legal representatives of the two accused.

In the last court sitting, attorney Zwelonke Ngwenya represented Gwala, with attorney Mpume Linda doing likewise for Makeba.

Gwala was named in the “Blood Rhino Blacklist” published in October 2017 by Saving the Wild, which is headed by wildlife activist Jamie Joseph.

The publication has been endorsed by numerous celebrities including Sir Richard Branson, Helen Clark, New Zealand’s Prime Minister and local musician Vusi Mahlasela.

In her expose, Joseph claimed that a cabal, which included magistrates, police and state prosecutors worked in concert to protect people like Gwala, who were linked to suspected poaching syndicates.

KZN’s Regional Court president, Eric Nzimande, who was heavily implicated in the “Blood Rhino Blacklist”, was suspended in October 2018.

In a recent Saving the Wild post, Joseph wrote: “This is organized crime that has infiltrated the sanctity of the courts – the rotten chunk of South Africa’s justice system, and it is bringing dishonour to the many good people who have made the pursuit of justice their life’s work.”

 

Beating illegal wildlife trade tests our resolve to save the Earth

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The Duke of Cambridge and William Hague, The Telegraph | January 21, 2020

See link for photos, insets, & 2-minute video.

Over recent years the degradation of our natural environment has rightly climbed the public agenda. As Sir David Attenborough warned last week, “the moment of crisis has come”. Our collective efforts are urgently needed to maintain the world as we know it: we must move away from the prevailing blend of pessimistic fatalism to one of optimism and action. Over the new year, The Earthshot Prize was announced to help do just that. Its aim is to inspire Earth’s greatest problem-solvers to solve Earth’s greatest problems.

But unlike so many of the challenges to achieving more sustainable living across the world – for which innovation and invention is clearly required – we already have the solutions to one vital aspect.

Five years ago, we identified the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) as conservation’s “elephant in the room”. As the fourth most profitable criminal global enterprise in the world, trading everything from rhino horns to pangolin scales, it continues to deplete our most precious wildlife.

Given its links to corruption and the trafficking of arms, narcotics, people, and even terrorist financing, IWT is unquestionably an intolerable crime, for both its conservation and human consequences. The criminals who plunder the world’s natural resources are also trapping its most vulnerable communities in poverty, denying future generations the right to economic and social development.

Original photo as published by The Telegraph: Prince William with winner Dr Peter Morkel at the Award for Conservation in Africa in 2018. (CREDIT: PAUL GROVER)

That is why, in 2014, we formed a Transport Task Force, to engage the transport sector in identifying and developing solutions to wildlife trafficking. In 2018, we broadened that work to include the financial sector because for every wildlife product sourced illegally, money changes hands.

This is beginning to have a material impact. Task force members have been integral to more than 70 law-enforcement investigations, the interdiction of 108 shipments (with a fourteen-fold increase last year), as well as arrests of 18 prolific traffickers, and the disruption of a major ivory, rhino horn, and heroin syndicate in East Africa.

In both Africa and Asia new regional centres of expertise have been created, bringing together local members to collaborate on specific initiatives, share intelligence and tailor good practice. Consumer awareness campaigns have reached millions, while tens of thousands of employees have been trained to detect and report signs of the trade, whether at ports and airports, or the cashier desks of banks. It is now considered business as usual for transport companies to track down illegal wildlife products in their cargo and for banks to investigate and freeze the assets of the perpetrators.

The Financial Task Force has created categorisations for use within existing compliance frameworks and is developing new methodologies to identify suspicious transactions. In the Transport Task Force, systems for the automatic screening and detection of illicit shipments, employing machine-learning algorithms, are being trialled and the mechanisms for sharing data with enforcement authorities developed.

But now is not the time to sit back and celebrate our success. The stark fact remains that 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife has been lost in the past 50 years and the process is accelerating, not just through destruction of habitat but under increasing pressure from this evil trade. Killings of rhinos occur at a rate of four a day, 24 times that in 2006.

We must redouble our efforts, and apply the lessons of the past five years.

First, that we cannot seize or arrest our way out of this problem. Instead, we must close down markets – already achieved by several countries for ivory – while also reducing the demand for such products through wholesale attitudinal changes to wildlife.

Second, that IWT’s convergence with so many other criminal activities is not only further justification for its eradication but can also serve to motivate co-operation with some of the world’s most effective law enforcement agencies, such as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Third, that things are improving: we have engaged with countless individuals and companies genuinely committed to doing their part to counter IWT and find that their words are increasingly backed by the everyday deeds of their business practices.

Fourth, that public-private co-operation is not just possible but vital. Law enforcement has acknowledged the contributions of business and is embracing these new relationships.

Fifth, and most importantly, that despite these efforts, the scale and immediacy of the threat to wildlife is far greater than can be addressed by the actions of even such a committed and active coalition.

So on Tuesday we convened United for Wildlife’s joint task forces in London, alongside the Government’s Africa Investment Summit.

We set a new three-year goal to mount the most intensive campaign yet to mobilise business, with the ambition of making it impossible to use private-sector infrastructure to facilitate the financing and transportation of IWT products with impunity.

This can only be achieved through a step-change in the adoption of measures being developed within established business practice.

IWT commitments are already being incorporated within transport accreditation frameworks such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has transcribed United for Wildlife’s commitments into its Environmental Assessment Programme.

They can also be used to complement existing regulatory regimes, such as making countering IWT a focus for the Chinese presidency of the OECD’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which recently convened its members in Beijing to start developing assessment criteria for use across its 205 jurisdictions.

Finally, making real change will involve amplifying consumers and investors’ growing insistence that business also fulfils a social purpose, so as to entrench a shared determination to root out this crime.

This year has the potential to generate much-needed momentum on wider environmental recovery (not least the UN’s summits on Biological Diversity and Climate Change). But unless we fail to galvanise both business and the public, 2020 risks becoming another missed opportunity – which for some of the most iconic species may be their last.

Their destruction cannot be allowed. They can be saved and working with others we are going to do it. We must all act – united and with great urgency – because defeating the illegal wildlife trade is not just a pressing challenge for conservationists, but a fundamental test of humanity’s resolve to save the Earth.

 

Eight arrested in connection with rhino poaching (Namibia)

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Ileni Nandjato & Jemima Beukes, The Namibian Sun | January 13, 2020

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Two Oshakati town council employees are among several people who were arrested last week in the Etosha National Park for rhino poaching.

They were caught red-handed attempting to cut the horns off two rhinos they shot and killed in the park.

They were nabbed by the Blue Rhino Team, a joint operation consisting of Namibian police, officials from the ministry of environment and tourism as well as members of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF).

It was reported that a team of five went on a rhino hunt in Etosha last week. On Wednesday they killed the two rhinos they were caught with, according to a police report.

Four of the suspects – Heimo Namweya, Shivolo Seboron, Diogenus Shivute and Moses Ekandjo – appeared before the Tsumeb Magistrate’s Court last Friday.

“Four of the suspects were arrested on the spot while one managed to escape. A hunting rifle and ammunition were recovered. The team also managed to arrest two other people who dropped them off the previous day. The Land Cruiser pick-up they used was impounded as well as instruments associated with rhino poaching,” the police report said.

“On Friday the team managed to arrest the suspect who initially fled from the scene. He was arrested together with another suspect who was on the run and was wanted for a previous rhino poaching case.”

The two are scheduled to appear in the Tsumeb Court today.

Police also reported that last Friday, the Blue Rhino Team arrested two men at Chiccimani Kalumba location in Katima Mulilo after they attempted to sell rhino horns to undercover police officers.

They were found in possession of two rhino horns. Police also managed to impound their two vehicles.

The two are due to appear before the Katina Mulilo magistrate’s Court today on charges of possession and dealing in controlled wildlife products.

Zambezi men arrested for possession of rhino horns (Namibia)

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Lugeretzia Kooper, The Namibian | January 13, 2020

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Two men were on Friday arrested in the Zambezi region for the possession a pair of rhino horns, with an estimated value of N$500,000.

Zambezi regional crime investigations coordinator, deputy commissioner Evans Simasiku confirmed the arrest of the two suspects aged 34 and 36 to The Namibian today saying that the arrest came about after the police got a tip and pursued it.

Original photo as published by The Namibian: Two Namibian men were arrested on Friday for possession of pair of rhino horns and rhino horns were confiscated.

“The suspects were arrested in the Kalumba area around 11h00. The pair of rhino horns were confiscated. They are expected to appear in the Katima Mulilo Magistrates Court on Monday,” he said.

Simasiku further noted that a case C/ R 73/01/2020 was opened at Katima Mulilo Police Station.

In an unrelated matter, Simasiku noted that four Zambian men were arrested at Cheduzwe area on Friday after the police received a tip that they are suspected poachers coming from Botswana.

“However when we intercepted them we only found one 308 rifle, six rounds of 308 ammunition and five rounds of 375 rifle. They will also appear in court on Monday,” he said.

 

Four robberies reported on New Year’s Eve (Namibia)

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Okeri Ngutjinazo, The Namibian | January 3, 2020

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A police crime report released yesterday shows that four robberies were reported on New Year’s Eve.

In the first incident, a Windhoek resident was on Tuesday robbed of six rhino horns valued at N$600,000 after unknown suspects gained entry into his house in Klein Windhoek through the roof. The rhino horns were kept in a suitcase in the roof.

No arrest or recovery has been made yet and police investigation continues.

Meanwhile, in Oshakati, 136 zinc sheets and 12 square tubes were reported stolen on Tuesday from Hardware Store after the security guard allegedly colluded with a former employee of the shop to commit the act.

All the items, valued at N$20 220, were recovered. The 35-year-old female security guard was arrested while the other suspect is still at large. Police investigation continues.

The crime report further states that in Outapi, at Fikila Bar, a suspect used an unknown object to break the padlock of the bar door and stole N$1 607 in cash and a bag containing clothes.

The suspect has not been arrested yet.

Meanwhile, it is alleged that three suspects armed with knives robbed a police officer of his private pistol, a police radio and his cellphone in the riverbed along Matshitshi Street in Otjomuise, Windhoek, on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Warrant Officer Abraham Antonious (51), a member of Special Field Force, was driving his private car while dressed in uniform.

He allegedly stopped, got off his vehicle and walked down the riverbed where the three suspects, who were wearing balaclavas, appeared from the bushes and attacked him.

One of the suspects got into the vehicle and stole the items. The suspects then allegedly fled into the Otjomuise location.

No arrests or recovery have been made yet.

 

Kruger Park ranger single-handedly apprehends gang of rhino poachers (South Africa)

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Landé Willemse, The Citizen | November 27, 2019

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An intelligence-driven operation in the Malalane section of the park resulted in the arrest of five men suspected of poaching two rhinos.

A heroic ranger single-handedly apprehended a gang of five heavily armed suspected rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Saturday, reports Lowvelder.

This after an intelligence-driven operation in the Malalane section of the park resulted in the arrest of five men suspected of poaching two rhinos.

Original photo as published by The Citizen.

Ike Phaahla, general manager of communications for the KNP, said they were grateful that the ranger was not injured during this brave act.

“We are grateful for his braveness, but even more grateful that no harm came to him.”

He added that the suspects were in possession of five fresh rhino horns, a high-calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment. The vehicle in which they were travelling, a kombi, has also been impounded for further investigation.

Phaahla was saddened that the arrests came after the poachers had already killed at least two rhino, rather than before, when they could have been stopped before firing a single shot.

“The arrests followed the discovery of two fresh rhino carcasses. The dead animals had been covered with grass and twigs to try and hide them from sight and delay their discovery.”

The section ranger immediately deployed his rangers around the area to look for possible suspicious vehicles.

“He spotted the kombi with two visible passengers and three others who were hiding not far from where the carcasses were discovered.”

When confronted and stopped, the driver produced a permit for two people. The ranger instructed him to get out of the vehicle with his hands in the air, and opened the rear door to expose the other armed passengers.

According to Phaahla, the ranger then loudly instructed them to lie on the ground next to the driver. He handcuffed three and while arresting the fourth, that suspect then pointed out that a fifth suspect had his firearm aimed at the ranger.

“Fortunately he failed to pull the trigger and the section ranger was able to call for backup.”

The suspects are in custody and SANParks is not ruling out further arrests. They will appear in court in due course to face rhino poaching-related charges.

The CEO of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni, congratulated the team on the arrests and continued to warn criminals that KNP was ready to stop them in their tracks.

“We are thankful that one ranger managed to subdue five criminals without any harm unto himself and continue to warn those who intend poaching in the KNP that our dedicated staff, technology and information from communities will lead to your incarceration. We won’t stop until all criminals are removed from society.”

Cops recover 100 rhino horns, four tiger carcasses, guns and ammunition during raids (South Africa)

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Ntwaagae Seleka, News24 | November 27, 2019

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North West police have recovered 100 rhino horns, four tiger carcasses, a tiger skin, weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition during a raid on two farms in the province.

The raids took place in Klerksdorp and Hartebeesfontein during an intelligence-driven operation by the Organised Crime Unit and illicit mining team on Tuesday, which resulted in the arrest of five suspects.

Original photo as published by News24: Rhino horn. (File, AFP)

Police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said the raids were part of the police’s ongoing endeavour in the province to turn the tide against illicit mining.

“The suspects’ arrests emanated from the operationalisation of intelligence about illegal firearms which were reportedly kept on a farm in the Klerksdorp area. During the operation, a hunting rifle, shotgun, special revolver, pistol as well as a number of empty cartridges and live rounds of ammunition were recovered.

“Moreover, the police confiscated what appeared to be a tiger skin. Further probes led the police to another farm in the Hartebeesfontein area where two suspects were arrested for being in possession of illegal firearms that included a rifle, hunting rifle, pistol, revolver as well as 708 rounds of ammunition,” said Mokgwabone.

The two suspects were found in possession of approximately 100 rhino horns, four tiger carcasses and US dollars valued at R45 900.

The five suspects are expected to appear in the Klerksdorp Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

North West provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane commended the officers for their hard work which resulted in the arrests and confiscations.

Motswenyane said the arrests would send a clear message that the police would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that those who disrespect the rule of law, including possessing illegal firearms, would be dealt with accordingly.

In museums, real rhino horns are an endangered species

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Jessica Leigh Hester, Atlas Obscura | November 22, 2019

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One night in August 2011, long after the last visitors had left the galleries, a man slipped into the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire, England. He entered some time between the cusp of midnight and the very early morning—when the only creatures around were the stuffed specimens peering out from glass cases.

The museum is claustrophobic, in the Victorian wunderkammer way: narrow corridors and tall cabinets, lined with perched birds, sprawled lions, and a polar bear with a dopey grin. This man had a mission, and no time to dawdle. He headed for the stuffed rhino.

When he reached it, he used a hammer to loosen the horns, the BBC reported. He snatched them and then fled.

Real rhinoceros horns are made of keratin, the same stuff that makes up human hair and nails, and the thief at Tring had good reason to assume that these horns were, too. But Tring, and many other natural history collections, have been on their guard. They’d taken stock of their holdings, and were thinking ahead.

Original photo as published by Atlas Obscura: Many museums make it clear that their rhino horns are replicas. (PAUL BIGGINS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)

Rhinos have struggled in the wild, in the sights of poachers’s weapons, and at the time museum workers around Europe and beyond saw that taxidermy specimens and isolated horns in museum displays were at risk, too. The thefts first began ramping up around 2009, says Jack Ashby, museum manager at the University Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, and a trustee of the United Kingdom’s Natural Sciences Collections Association, after an unnamed Vietnamese official circulated an unsubstantiated rumor that rhino horn vanquishes cancer. Rhino horn has long been prized for its alleged and unproven medicinal benefits and as a luxury item. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, it is said that it can be used to treat fevers, gout, or rheumatism. In several countries, horn is also a status symbol. The market wasn’t new, but the rumor accelerated demand. “We’re pretty confident that [it] started the spate of thefts,” Ashby says.

Over the next few years, dozens of horns were stolen from museums across Europe—sometimes in secret at night, other times in broad daylight with brazen shows of force. Some thieves used teargas; others tied up security guards. At Norwich Castle Museum, in Norfolk, England, thieves on a smash-and-grab were tackled by onlookers. In summer 2011, The New York Times reported that powder from ground-up horns was selling for $45,000 a pound on the black market—more than gold or cocaine.

Just a month before the incident at Tring, thieves had targeted the Ipswich Museum, about 100 miles away, and pried a horn off of a rhino that visitors had affectionately named Rosie, a museum mainstay for over a century. (The museum installed a condolence book nearby for people to scribble “get well soon” wishes for the unfortunate ungulate.) Tring had already seen thieves go after its bird collection a few years prior in pursuit of brilliant plumage, so when the staff heard about the rhino horn break-ins, they took steps to safeguard the collection. The man who stole the horns—and would be caught and sentenced to 10 months in jail—had taken resin replicas.

There are many reasons a museum curator, conservator, or staff member might put a replica on display. Because the fossil record is fragmentary, many skeletons are incomplete, so rather than install a quagga teetering on three legs, museums often craft missing pieces out of wood, plaster, resin, or 3D-printed plastic to help visitors get a sense of a creature’s full form. Replicas can also lessen some of the stress and strain that a fragile, fossilized skeleton might encounter. And a big, bonafide tusk might require unsightly supports, unlike lighter papier-mâché and resin.

Rhino horns fall into a different category: Because they’re alluring to people with illicit plans, many museum professionals believe that putting them on display is just too dicey.

“The Lord of the Rings sums it up: ‘Keep it secret, keep it safe.’”

Since the rhino horn heists, the Natural Sciences Collections Association has issued guidelines for what museums can do to keep their horns safe. It starts with a security audit, explains Paolo Viscardi, a zoology curator at the National Museum of Ireland, and the chair of the association. Security begins with the display case and moves out from there. Is the horn behind bulletproof glass and multiple locks? Are security staff roving the galleries around the clock? Are there cameras? Do police officers hang out nearby? If the security can’t be brought up to snuff, the guidelines suggest loaning or donating the specimen to another museum.

The guidelines also encourage museums that do have authentic rhino horns to keep mum—or at least not holler about it. “The very first line of security you have is, don’t tell people about it,” Viscardi says. “The Lord of the Rings sums it up: ‘Keep it secret, keep it safe.’” If museums post images of their rhino horns on Twitter, Viscardi adds, they should only use fake ones and make that as clear as they can. Ashby’s museum in Cambridge has extended this idea to the label text. Next to their rhino displays, small signs read, “All rhino horns on display at the museum are replicas.” This is to discourage anyone from even trying. Though a stolen fake is less devastating than a real pilfered horn, the act can still damage the museum, the display, and—most importantly—the preserved animal.

Museums with rhino horns will sometimes prepare themselves for the worst by collecting DNA samples from the horns, in case they ever go missing. They take these samples by, for instance, drilling a one-millimeter hole in the base of the horn and collecting the powder, Viscardi says. There are also international projects, including the Rhinoceros DNA Database Project, run by the Scottish government, that invite museums to contribute the genetic information to a single repository that can help police or customs agents trace seized horns.

At this point, packing away authentic rhino horn is “pretty much universal” across museums, Ashby says. It’s “not a decision that museums make lightly,” he adds. “Changing a historic specimen is rarely done.” But safety often comes before the impulse to leave old specimens be. Viscardi says that pretty much every museum he knows has taken their horns off display, tucked them into secure storage, and fitted synthetic replicas. The average visitor will likely never be able to tell the difference, unless label text trumpets the swap.

Several museums contacted for this story declined to comment about horns in their collections at all, citing security concerns. In rare instances in which museums do keep the originals on display and are willing to talk about it, they make it clear just how tight security is. The Field Museum in Chicago has real rhino horn on display on a taxidermy specimen from the early 1900s. Because the horn is affixed to the original mount, removing it would involve potentially damaging the specimen, which the museum wants to avoid, says Adam Ferguson, collection manager of mammals. But that’s not to say that horns are just sitting out in the open. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with our stuff on physical display if we didn’t have a physical barrier and then added security,” Ferguson says. Talking about the precautions, he says, “highlights that we take this stuff seriously. Like, ‘Damn, that’s hard to get that stuff.’”

“You lose the ‘wow’ factor of having it out and on display, but you’ve got the balance the risk versus the gain.”

All of the museum’s rhino horns are behind glass, and the cases are outfitted with alarms and surveillance cameras, Ferguson says. (The same goes for convincing fakes, attached to an entirely unnatural specimen fashioned from cellulose acetate, which yields an uncannily lifelike impression, down to the wrinkles of the skin.) Another rhino horn and other objects with temptingly high black-market appeal are sealed up in storage facilities behind biometric locks. There, rhino horn sits alongside narwhal ivory, and priceless type specimens—the definitive and diagnostic examples of a given species—are clustered with pangolin scales in locked cabinets, only accessible with badges. The museum doesn’t want to hide stuff away, Ferguson says, but it’s tricky to find the right balance between sharing and safeguarding these items. “You lose the ‘wow’ factor of having it out and on display,” hen says, “but you’ve got the balance the risk versus the gain.”

Demand for rhino horn may wax and wane, but the replicas and security probably aren’t going anywhere. “I could see security practices changing slightly or becoming lax, but it’d be hard,” Ferguson says. “It would take such a long time—it’s not something I could see in my generation or lifespan, someone saying, ‘Let’s get rid of that security altogether.’”

If anything, high-quality fakes might get even more use. A recent paper in the journal Scientific Reports made the case for trying to flood the rhino horn market with imitation horn made from horsehair. (Speaking to Wired, many conservationists voiced concerns that such accurate knockoffs might just fan the desire for the real thing.) There are good scientific reasons for keeping rhino horn on hand, but fewer for putting them at risk on public display, at least until security is locked down and demand fades. “No one thought it was an issue until they started smashing and grabbing horns,” Ferguson says. Now it’s just safer to keep them out of sight.