Four rhinoceros heads valued at $650,000 were stolen from the National Museum of Ireland Wednesday night.
In a statement released today, museum officials said four raiders overpowered and tied up a security guard during the robbery. The guard, who was uninjured, later broke free and raised the alarm.
"We've never had to deal with something like that in our history, as far as I’m aware," said Nigel Monaghan, a keeper in the natural history division of the museum.
The heads were about 100 years old, trophies dating back to the early 1900s. They included three black rhinos and one white rhino, all from Africa. Rhino horns are worth more than their weight in gold, and museum officials had placed them in storage last year to protect them from thieves.
“The stolen rhinoceros heads have a total of eight horns that have probably been taken to supply the illegal trade in powdered horn that is used in traditional medicines in the Far East,” the museum said. “Their price is based on weight.”
Earlier this month, officials at South Africa's national parks said they were under siege from rhino poachers and that animals faced the prospect of extinction.