Safe crackers steal nearly $3 mln in S.Africa rhino horn

April 6, 2013 Reuters

JOHANNESBURG  - Thieves have made off with 66 rhino horns worth some $2.75 million in one of the biggest horn heists South Africa has seen after breaking into the safe of a game farm owner.

The horns had been removed from rhinos at the Leshoka Thabang Game Reserve in northern Limpopo province to protect the animals from poachers who supply them illegally to international crime syndicates.

Demand has also been growing for rhino horn in Vietnam, where a newly affluent class has been buying it to treat ailments ranging from hangovers to cancer. The treatments have no basis in science but demand has pushed the price up to $65,000 a kg, making it more expensive than gold.

"In my hands it is worth nothing, but in the hands of the guys who have it now, the horns are worth a lot of money," Johan van Zyl, owner of the game farm, told Reuters by telephone.

He said about 42 kg of horn had been stolen, which, according to prices of Vietnamese traditional medicine deals, would sell for about $2.75 million on the streets of Hanoi.

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