Credit: Mick Gell
individual items offered for sale
at auction in the UK in 2017
Our research found that 89% of rhino horn antique items for sale in the UK last year had no proof of age or origin. This makes it possible for modern, illegal rhino horn to be laundered through the UK. The lot descriptions for 58 of those items included the weight. No weights were given for items made of other materials such as wood.
Sophisticated criminal networks use a wide variety of methods to traffic illegal rhino horn to consumer countries, often routing it through EU countries.
Previous research on ivory had similar findings and now an Ivory Bill is going through parliament to impose much tighter controls on the sale of ivory in the UK. Unfortunately, rhinos will not be protected within this new piece of legislation.
"Gaps in the system are likely allowing illegal items to be sold in order for unscrupulous individuals to gain. Through all of this, the rhinos are the ones losing out, with three rhinos killed each day for their horn. The UK antiques trade surely wishes to avoid being implicated in facilitating the demand for illegal rhino horn. Action must be taken to ensure that no modern rhino horn is leaking into the market."
Now we have found out more about the trade in rhino horn antiques, we want something to be done about it. We need more consultation and research, better best-practice standards to be widely adopted by auction houses and, in the longer-term, tighter controls on the sale of antique rhino items.
With all five species of rhino facing extinction in the wild, immediate action must be taken to stop the flow of illegal rhino horn into the UK – and global – market.