Police recover rare rhino horn stolen from UVM

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A valuable artifact that was stolen from the campus of the University of Vermont is back in Burlington. The rare black rhinoceros horn was swiped from UVM's Torrey Hall last April by someone who used a drill to get through a locked door. Officials believe the person who took the horn knew it was worth a lot of money.

File photo

"Amazing, total surprise, total shock: I was sure we would never see it again," UVM Professor Bill Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick is still in disbelief that a rare piece of the biological collection is back on campus.

"I don't know if they were planning on selling it or making it look a little nicer. It's in good shape, no real damage to it at all," Kilpatrick said.

A tip on the whereabouts of the missing rhino horn led police to Ridgefield, Connecticut.

"We did develop a lead that led us to an out-of-state person. We didn't have probable cause to do a search at that place," UVM Deputy Police Chief Tim Bilodeau said.

To get the horn back, police offered immunity to the suspect in exchange for the 100-year-old rhino horn.

"We certainly like to prosecute people and hold people accountable when we can," Bilodeau said. "On the other hand, in this case, we just wanted to get the property, that's their primary value with that."

Officials say the horn of the endangered species is worth over $200,000. That's because in places like Asia it is believed to cure everything from a hangover to cancer.

"These ideas mainly in Vietnam now have really caused a spike in the price. It's also a status symbol," Kilpatrick said.

Now, the horn is back in Burlington so students can learn from it.

Since officials won't say who took the horn, the case remains open.

"It's not necessarily surprising to us that it ended up in the hands that it did," Bilodeau said.

And police are not ruling out future arrests.