The illegal rhinoceros horn trade is hot right now: a record number of rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa last year, which is home to three quarters of the world’s rhino population according to the World Wildlife Fund. Poachers seek the highly valuable horn that is believed to cure cancer, among other supposed health benefits.

One thief made a humorous mistake when he broke into the Lombardini Game Farm in the Eastern Cape of South Africa earlier this week. He tried to break into the game farm and preserve’s cash register, which failed, so he plundered the bar. He then pulled a synthetic rhino head from its mount on the wall and sawed off its horn, which was made of fiberglass.

The owners of the lodge, Susan Lottering and Johan Lottering, found the mutilated statue on the front lawn of the lodge the next morning, Monday April 2.

“I was angry at the time, but it was also funny,” said Susan Lottering in an interview with the BBC.

The statue, named Barendina, was a sculpture of the first rhino to arrive at the game farm who died of natural causes about eight years ago. There are 15 living white rhinos on the farm, but Lottering said they’ve all already been de-horned to prevent harmful poaching of the animals. De-horning a rhino does not hurt it, but poachers are careless and cause severe, often fatal, harm to the animal when sawing the horn off. And sometimes they kill the animal instead of tranquilizing it to get the horn.

Police are investigating the theft and have been to the farm to take fingerprints and photographs, Susan Lottering said.

In 2011, 448 rhinos were killed in the illegal trade, which equals one rhino every 18 hours. At the end of March, the official rhino toll for 2012 was at 150 rhinos.

Photo: Andy (allspice1, flickr)

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