Animal artefacts to be disposed of by council

RHINO horns and animal heads that were unearthed in the attic of a museum in the Borders will never be displayed locally, writes Bob Burgess.

Powdered Rhino horn is considered by the Chinese to be a powerful aphrodisiac and can fetch up to £3,700 on the black market.

Eleven sets of mounted horns – including two Rhinos –were discovered in April and are in the possession of Scottish Borders Council’s museums department.

This week councillors met in private to discuss their future. The decision to go behind closed doors was, according to the council, taken on the advice of the police.

TheSouthern was told: “There have been a spate of break-ins in England where artefacts such as this have been stolen. The decision to meet in private was for reasons of security.”

Councillors on the executive committee were given a report by museum chiefs on Tuesday.

And councillors agreed to dispose of animal remains by offering them as a gift to other UK accredited museums or suitable zoological socities.

If they do not want the artefacts, they will be offered for sale through a reputable auction house with profits going to the council’s museum service. If there are no buyers – they will be destroyed.

But what is certain is that there will be no cash windfall from the aphrodisiac Rhino horns as their sale is banned by law and also goes against the council’s own ethical rules.

Council Leader David Parker agreed that secrecy surrounding Tuesday’s decision would be lifted provided we did not disclose where the horns are stored.

And he told us: “These type of things would not be displayed by us for reasons of political correctness. People now do not want to look at stuffed animals and the like.”

The discovery this year includes two double-mounted Rhino heads, a couple of Water Buffalo skulls, and horns from Water Buffalo, Impala, Water Buck and Red Heart Beast.

Most are believed to be the work of noted British taxidermist Roland Ward and date from between 1879 and 1898.

Councillor Parker told us: “We have a dispersal policy that is overseen by our museum staff. Many of the items will not have been displayed for many years – if at all.”