April 2, 2014 6:56 AM   Subscribe

The Dead Zoo Gang "Over the last several years, millions of dollars worth of antique rhino horns have been stolen from natural history museum collections around the world. The only thing more unusual than the crimes is the theory about who is responsible: A handful of families from rural Ireland known as the Rathkeale Rovers." (Via)
posted by zarq (22 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

This is a long, in-depth piece, clocking in at 19,315 words.
posted by zarq at 6:58 AM on April 2

Well it certainly wouldn't be via, now would it?
posted by The Michael The at 7:20 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Only part of the way through this hefty and engaging piece, but is it too late to spread the story that compounds in rhino horn cause impotence, incontinence, and cancer? (And the more obvious story that whole, live rhinos are dangerous to your health and should be observed politely from a distance)?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:21 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

I was reading this last night, but fell asleep partway through (because I was tired). I'm looking forward to finishing it and you shouldn't be put off by the length.
posted by hoyland at 7:22 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Yeah, didn't mean to imply I wouldn't be reading it, because I absolutely will. The Travelers are fascinating as a rule, and this doesn't change that for sure.
posted by The Michael The at 7:24 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

“I do not see how the rhinoceros can be permanently preserved,” Theodore Roosevelt observed after shooting 13 of them, “save in very out-of-the-way places or in regular game reserves.”

I have a suggestion for you on this topic, Teddy, that might provide a solution to your dilemma....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:56 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]

Fascinating piece --- I'm only up to part 11, I do have to get some work done today. But the continued existence of the Travellers and their ability (for some, at least) to thrive gives you an odd, paradigm shifting feeling, where for a moment at least the whole bulk and weight of the modern world feels thin as tissue paper, like it too could be washed away in the first good rain. Such an ancient enmity, between the settled and the nomad, and we settled are so used to thinking we've crushed them entire and established an absolute dominion over the world. And all you have to do is have 100 cousins to back you up and not give one single fuck about our laws, and you can slip between the cracks of western civilisation at will...
posted by Diablevert at 7:59 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]

Which is in the article, at the end.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:01 AM on April 2

A less colourful version of this was in Businessweek a few months back:

The Irish Clan Behind Europe's Rhino-Horn Theft Epidemic
posted by meehawl at 10:01 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]

A really great read; the longest of longform.

(Though the white on black text did my eyes in and I had to stop after each section.)
posted by Thing at 10:22 AM on April 2

And all you have to do is have 100 cousins to back you up and not give one single fuck about our laws,

This also describes Irish politicians. And most businesses. Maybe the whole country.

Having grown up around Travellers I will also add that often brothers and cousins will look so alike you cannot easily tell them apart. I obviously don't condone anything that promotes the crazy trade in rhino horns but it is kind of nice to know you can still evade surveillance in Europe.
posted by fshgrl at 1:00 PM on April 2

It's difficult to convey the atavistic loathing that the Travelling community engenders in Ireland. It's an unfortunate aspect of the country.
posted by ironjelly at 1:24 PM on April 2

It's difficult to convey the atavistic loathing that the Travelling community engenders in Ireland. It's an unfortunate aspect of the country.

Years ago I lived in Dublin for a while. Took a couple writing classes while I was there, and one of the stories which I vividly remember workshopping was a piece centered around a barman working alone in a pub on a slow Saturday afternoon when two Travellers come in; the whole tension of the piece was in the subtext of his conversation with them, his unspoken fear they'd trash bar and his trying figure out how to kick them out without insulting them. I remember it because I didn't grok it; I think I'd vaguely heard of the word Travellers by that point but knew nothing about them...came out in the discussion afterwards that it was based on something the guy had experienced in real life when he was a young man. I still don't think I understand anything about that complicated relationship. Too much unspoken.
posted by Diablevert at 1:55 PM on April 2

It's difficult to convey the atavistic loathing that the Travelling community engenders in Ireland.

Not just in Ireland. I've seen an extraordinary number of stories about the way Roma (whose communities overlap and are frequently identified with Travellers) are treated in Hungary in particular, but also Romania, Bulgaria, France and .... well, Europe. This isn't merely "feeling uncomfortable in the pub" level of animosity, but "we have established an fund to pay them to go away" or "we have a special school for them so they will feel more comfortable, it's a few miles that way next to the rubbish heap."
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:01 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

One thing that confused me was that the article says that Travellers aren't considered a separate ethnic group in Ireland. They are counted separately in the Irish census, though, which would seem to contradict that. (They're also counted separately in England and Wales, though 2011 was the first time that happened.*)

*The box is 'Gypsies and Irish Travellers'. The assumption is that it's an undercount (because some people presumably ticked whatever they had in the past) and that Roma ticked a different box.
posted by hoyland at 4:12 PM on April 2

The number of Travellers counted in the 2011 UK Census was a vast undercount for sure.

Also, the relationship between Traveller and settled communities in England is different from Roma elsewhere in Europe. For a start, most people would even deny they're a separate ethnic group but rather one based on lifestyle. They would also welcome Travellers "settling" in their towns (by which they mean living in a house and no longer being itinerant) and sending their kids to local schools. The gripe most often heard is "why don't they live like everybody else?" and assume that Travellers live like they do so that they don't have to pay tax or get "proper" jobs. I'm not sure if such views are all that much better, but it's an indication that a comparison in hard.
posted by Thing at 4:30 PM on April 2

What do you call those inline non-links that you can click to make a photo or non-footnote reveal itself? Hotspots?
posted by LogicalDash at 5:39 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I call them "Page not founds."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:40 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Kirth, they only open inline. I tried opening them in new tabs and got 404's.
posted by zarq at 6:40 PM on April 2

Yeah, they're not really links. Not... not hyperlinks... I mean, I don't know, they're some JavaScript machination, not what you normally call a link.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:52 PM on April 2

This was a really fantastic piece. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by town of cats at 4:11 PM on April 3

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