Man Breaks into Museum and Tries to Steal Elephant Tusk with Chainsaw

Even long-dead elephants can't catch a break from the ivory trade.

Early yesterday morning, a man broke into Paris's Museum of Natural History and used a chainsaw to cut off the tusk of a 325-year-old elephant skeleton before being caught shortly afterward by police. Neighbors of the museum called police after hearing a "a strange sawing sound at around 3am" (that would be the chainsaw). When police arrived, they found the thief, who was in his 20s, desperately trying to scale a wall while carrying a tusk, having left the still-whirring chainsaw next to the elephant skeleton. The thief fractured his ankle during his would-be escape.

The elephant itself had once belonged to King Louis XIV, after it was given to him by a Portuguese king in 1668. It was a popular attraction for visiting nobles while it roamed the grounds of Versailles.

Ivory-theft at cultural institutions has seen a recent surge as of late, the Guardian explains:

There has been a spate of thefts of rhino horns and elephant tusks from European museums, zoos and auction houses in recent years, amid a rising illegal trade in poached or stolen ivory. On the black market an elephant tusk can fetch hundreds of pounds per kilogramme, with rhino horns fetching considerably more. The international trade in elephant ivory has been outlawed since 1990 after a sharp decline in elephant populations.

In response to the thefts, several European museums have replaced rhino horns and tusks with replicas. The tusk almost-stolen was a replacement itself, albeit still made of ivory.