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Forget gold, said Stefan Ulrich. Today’s sophisticated thieves are trafficking in rhinoceros horns, which can fetch up to $300,000 each. The horns are ground down and sold to the Asian market, where rhino-horn powder is believed to cure everything from migraines to cancer, but is most often marketed to treat male impotence. This year alone, robbers have stolen rhinoceros horns from museums, antiques stores, and even private collections in at least eight European countries.
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Some of the holdups are “like something right out of a Hollywood heist movie.” Just last week, in France, where most of the robberies have occurred, bandits burst into a Paris nature museum, sprayed tear gas at the guards, grabbed a white-rhino horn out of a display, and sped off in a getaway car.
Now that European museums have been picked nearly clean, zookeepers fear that the gang will start targeting their animals, killing them for their horns. Perhaps they should fight back by telling Asian customers the truth: Rhino horn is made of keratin, just like human hair and fingernails. If you’re eating rhino powder for your libido, “you’d do just as well to bite your nails.”
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