By Shelley Marsden
LORD of the Dance star Michael Flatley is facing some tough questions from animal rights groups, who are calling for a full investigation into why he was in possession of a rhino horn.
Irish environmental bodies have asked the National Parks and Wildlife Service to determine if dancer Flatley has a certificate of authenticity for the item.
The horn, which was valued at up to £164,000, was stolen last week during a burglary at the 55-year-old’s mansion in County Cork.
It is thought it had been cut from a stuffed rhino’s head which was mounted in a ‘safari room’.
The groups, including the Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and Friends of the Irish Environment have filed a formal request for investigations of Mr Flatley’s collection of rhino horn.
On January 31, the groups filed formal Request for Investigations of Mr Flatley’s collection of rhino horn and any other possessions covered by CITES that the world–renowned dancer may have with Dr. Ciaran O’Keeffe, the Senior Inspector of the Species’ Protection Unit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and are awaiting a response.
They have also made a report to the Superintendent of the Cork North Division of the Garda at the Fermoy Garda station.
The letter has been issued in advance of a high level Conference to be held in London on 12 and 13 February, when world leaders will meet to discuss escalating wildlife crime.
Rhinoceros specimens are listed for protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [CITES].
Wildlife crime is ranked third after drugs and arms trafficking globally. Recently, the South African government released figures showing that a record 1004 rhinos were killed by poachers during 2013 – the equivalent of nearly three animals a day. This figure is up significantly on the 2012 figure when 668 rhinos were reported to have been killed.
The western black rhino was declared extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011 and the Javan rhino is now extinct in mainland Asia.