published Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Thieves steal rhino horns in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — South African officials say thieves have stolen a stockpile of rhino horns from the offices of a provincial parks agency, dealing a setback to efforts to curb an escalation of rhino poaching in recent years.

Kholofelo Nkambule, spokeswoman for the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, said Tuesday that burglars used a machine tool called a grinder to break into the safe containing the horns.

Nkambule says police forensic experts are investigating Monday's theft in the northeastern city of Nelspruit. She is declining to say how many horns were stolen.

South Africa, home to the vast majority of the world's rhinos, lost 1,004 of the animals to poachers last year. Rhino horn is viewed as a status symbol and a healing agent for serious illness in some parts of Asia.

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