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France

Chainsaw thief hacks off Louis XIV elephant's tusk

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-31

French police arrested a man as he tried to flee the Paris National History Museum early on Saturday after hacking off a tusk of a skeleton of an elephant given to French King Louis XIV in 1668.

An intruder in the Paris Natural History Museum who sawed off a tusk of a skeleton of an African elephant given to French King Louis XIV was apprehended early on Saturday, according to French authorities.

The suspect, about 20 years old, had the tusk in his possession when the police arrested him outside the museum as he tried to flee the premises.

The vandalism occurred early Saturday in the palaeontology section of the historic Paris Natural History Museum after the man managed to enter the building through a window.

“The elephant that was damaged was given to Louis XIV as a present by the king of Portugal in 1668,” Jacques Cuisin, head of restoration at the museum, told reporters over the weekend. "He was cutting the tusk with a chainsaw until the tusk actually fell. The noise from the security alarm was so unbearable that he left," explained Cuisin.

The animal's tusks are not the original ones, but were added to the skeleton in the 19th century.

According to Cuisin, the three-kilogram tusk did not have great monetary value, but it did have major historic and scientific value.

Despite the shocking act of vandalism, museum officials assured reporters that the tusk could be easily repaired.

Spate of attacks on museum rhinos and elephants

Hours after the incident, the museum opened to visitors at regular hours - although the vandalised elephant skeleton was shrouded in a white covering.

French police officials and museum staffers said they did not know the motivation for the attempted theft. "Perhaps it was about collecting the item,” said Cuisin.

But in recent years, there has been a spate of attacks on museum pieces in Europe – especially rhino species.

In July 2011, London’s Metropolitan Police warned museums, auction houses and other institutions of a Europe-wide trend of rhino horn thefts. In response, a number of institutions began responding to the threat by removing rhino horns from displays or by replacing them with replicas.

But the measures didn’t come quickly enough to save Rosie the Rhino’s horn at the Ipswich Museum in eastern England. The horn of the stuffed rhino was stolen on July 28, 2011, after the museum was broken into.

The prices of rhino horn and elephant tusks have surged over the past few years despite a worldwide ban on elephant and rhino poaching as the market for the products has swollen in China.

 

Date created : 2013-03-31

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