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Rhino horn thieves fooled by replicas in United Kingdom heist
An Indian rhino model at the Natural History Museum at Tring, England where rhino horn thieves staging a museum break-in were foiled by staff who had replaced the 240,000 pounds ($391,000) rare specimens with replicas. The thieves were seeking valuable rhino horns that can be sold in illicit markets for their purported aphrodisiac and medicinal use, but they left with worthless replicas instead. Officials at the Natural History Museum at Tring had replaced the real horns with replicas because of a recent surge in rhino horn thefts at museums, galleries and auction houses throughout Britain and continental Europe. AP Photo/Natural History Museum/PA Wire.
LONDON (AP).- Thieves have struck a British museum aiming to cart away rare rhino horns — but it turns out they took replicas instead.

The foiled heist at the Natural History Museum at Tring follows a string of rhino horn thefts in Britain and continental Europe. The horns are revered in parts of Asia for their purported aphrodisiac and medicinal value and are often ground into powder.

The museum, located 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of London in the county of Hertfordshire, was closed Saturday while police investigated the early morning crime. Displays are being repaired and the museum will reopen Sunday.

Museum officials say the replicas have no financial value. They estimate the real horns would have been worth about 240,000 pounds ($391,000) in the illegal trade.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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