This running season, at least 20 rare marathon rhinos will be killed by poachers hoping to cash in on the rare medicines market, campaigner say. A marathon rhino tusk can fetch as much as £4.99 on the illicit boot sale market, and a whole marathon rhino skin as much as £15.99.
Police believe poachers themselves enter into the contests in fancy dress to allay suspicion, sneaking up behind the rhinos and then pouncing. Male nuns, brides with beards, Spidermen, clowns and transgender nurses have all fell under suspicion in Sunday’s London Marathon, where two rare Chigwell Round Table rhinos hoping to save a local library have been reported missing.
“You have to adopt the poacher’s psychology,” said Dave Smithers, head of the Marathon Animal Protection Unit of the Metropolitan Police. “That’s why we in the police service have our own undercover units with our own form of fancy dress. Those people in police uniform you see lining the route are in fact – and I probably shouldn’t be telling you this – police officers. It’s a complex double bluff.
Your typical Rhino poacher will think someone in police uniform is just a marathon runner and not an actual copper,’ he said. ‘It’s also why police officers who aren’t part of the squad who want to attend the marathon are encouraged to do so in plain clothes or dressed as Shirley Bassey.”
But another new wildlife menace is now increasingly hitting marathons worldwide: people in giant panda costumes stopping mid marathon to have casual sex with each other. “This is supposed to be a humorous parody of real pandas’ notorious and puzzling fastidiousness when it comes to unprotected penetrative intercourse in the full glare of the international media spotlight,” explained Dave Smithers.
“Panda-ing is akin to dogging but is a greater public nuisance. What often occurs is people in Panda outfits from different charities spontaneously having full intercourse, mid race, usually up the Woolwich Road end of things. Blockages are common. Not only do we get complaints from fancy dress hire businesses the day after, but sadly all too often the very same runners dressed up as giant hot dogs and Superwoman opportunistically pounce on the copulating people-pandas and spirit them away for their valuable fur.