A man was arrested for allegedly breaking into Paris' Museum of Natural History and using a chainsaw to cut off a tusk from a centuries-old elephant skeleton.
Police said a neighbour of the Left Bank museum alerted authorities after hearing the sawing sound in the early hours at the weekend.
The suspect, aged about 20, had the tusk in his possession when police arrested him soon afterward outside the museum. Paris prosecutors' office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre made no immediate comment about why the man tried to steal the tusk but the incident comes amid a series of thefts in recent years of ivory from European museums and zoos.
The elephant whose skeleton is preserved in the museum was given as a gift in 1668 by the king of Portugal to Louis XIV, who was also known as the Sun King.
The animal's tusks are not the original ones but were added to the skeleton in the 19th century.
The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.
Yet poachers continue to slaughter elephants to lay their hands on the precious ivory.
Additional reporting by Associated PressTopics: France Elephant tusks