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OFFBEAT

Rhino horn thieves gas Paris museum guards

Thieves used stun gas to overpower guards before stealing a white rhinoceros horn from a museum in the heart of Paris on Tuesday, in the latest of a string of heists targeting the rare ivory, the museum said.

Rhino horn thieves gas Paris museum guards
Martin Pettitt (File)

Two people, backed by an accomplice, burst into the museum of hunting and nature in Paris’ historic Marais district at around 2pm, neutralised the guards and made off with the horn of a rhino captured in South Africa in the 1980s.

The security guards were briefly treated for the effects of the stun gas.

European museums, zoos and auction rooms are on alert following a spike in robberies involving rhino horns, fuelled by an illegal trade towards Asia and the Middle East where a horn can fetch tens of thousands of euros.

The rhinos’ ivory is ground up and used in traditional medicines for fevers, convulsions and as an aphrodisiac.

This year alone in France, horns were stolen from western Rouen in March and from central Blois and the western Island of Aix in July, in addition to a botched robbery in central Bourges.

Thoiry zoo west of Paris has put its three white rhinos under surveillance to protect them from poachers.

Elsewhere in Europe, two horns were stolen in recent months in Vienna, from a taxidermist and an auction room. In Lisbon police arrested two Australians with six horns in their luggage, while in Britain thieves stole two horns from the natural history museum in southern Tring — which were in fact copies.

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ANIMAL

Paris authorities to shut down bird market over cruelty concerns

The Paris city council on Wednesday agreed to shut down a live bird market operating in the historic centre close to Notre Dame cathedral, responding to rights activists who called it a cruel and archaic operation.

Paris authorities to shut down bird market over cruelty concerns
Photo: AFP

The bird market on Louis Lepine square in the centre of the French capital has long been a fixture in Paris, operating close to the famous flower market.

But Christophe Najdovski, Paris' deputy mayor in charge of animal welfare, said that the market was a centre for bird trafficking in France while conditions for the birds were not acceptable.

“This is why we are committed to changing the regulations to ban the sale of birds and other animals,” he said.

The closure had been urged by activists from the Paris Animals Zoopolis collective who had called the practice of showing the caged birds “cruel and archaic”.

France and Paris have in the last months adopted a series of measures aiming to show they are at the forefront of efforts to protect animal welfare.

The government said in September it planned to “gradually” ban mink farms as well the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and dolphins and orcas in theme parks.

Parc Asterix, which normally has some two million visitors a year, announced last month it would close its dolphin and sea lion aquarium.

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