Thieves who broke into a museum to rip two rhino horns from taxidermy displays were foiled by staff who had replaced horns worth £240,000 with replicas. The Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, said the resin horns were fitted on to two specimens three months ago and had no resale value.

Rhino horn can fetch £60,000 per kg in the far east where it is prized for its supposed medicinal qualities.

Many museums have removed rhino horns from displays as thefts increase.

Police are investigating after the raiders smashed through the museum’s front doors at 04:30 BST.

It is believed they removed the horns from the animals using a large hammer.

The museum, which had 299 rare bird skins stolen in 2009, was closed on Saturday and is expected to reopen on Sunday.

Manager Paul Kitching said: “We’re deeply saddened by this pointless theft.

“The rhinoceros horns that have been stolen were replicas made out of resin, so they have no commercial value.

“We’re now working with the police and urge anyone with any pertinent information to get in touch.

“We are working today to clear up the museum so that we can reopen as usual tomorrow.”