A man tried to illegally sell £15,000 worth of endangered black rhino horns as he struggled to pay his mortgage, a court heard.
Clifford Bardelli, aged 52, had been given two pieces of horn as keepsakes by his former boss when he worked as a silversmith.
But when his long-term partner left him hard-up Bardelli approached two Chinese herbalists and tried to sell them - despite being told it was illegal.
He was caught when one of them dialled 1471 after he called and passed his details to police who arrested him.
Officers found a lump of horn weighing 54g and later found a second bigger piece weighing 173g in his garden.
Experts said the two together were worth £14,756 but ‘unsophisticated’.
Bardelli was trying to sell them for just a few hundred pounds.
Magistrates in Sheffield, heard Bardelli used the pieces of horn in his previous career as a silversmith where the animal parts are traditionally used to shape metal.
Rhino horn does not make marks on the metal like other materials.
Bardelli, who now works as a landscape gardener, said when he left the job his boss gave him the two pieces knowing he was a keen collector of fossils and artefacts.
Prosecutor Rob Coyne said Bardelli, of Carr Forge Mount,Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, called a Chinese herbalist in March saying he had some black rhino horn and ‘asking her several times if she wanted any’.
Police later found Bardelli had also visited a second Chinese herbalist in Sheffield offering her the horns.
He told her they were from South Africa and claimed they were worth £1,000 but was ‘willing to do a deal’.
Paul Metcalfe, defending, said Bardelli was unable to pay his mortgage after splitting up with his partner.
He said: “What he was asking for was nothing like the value of these things. A couple of hundred pounds was all he was after. This was an act of foolish desperation. It was unsophisticated.”
Bardelli admitted two charges of offering for sale parts of an endangered wild animal.
Magistrates ordered forfeiture of the two rhino horns and handed him a community order with 240 hours of unpaid work.
They also imposed a tagged curfew between the hours of 8pm and 6am, and ordered him to pay a £15 victim surcharge.
Chairman of the bench Alan Law told him: “Clearly this is a very serious offence, the value of it and the fact that it is an endangered species.
“This is something we have to set an example about.
“You lied to the police. You continued to try to sell this material despite knowing what the circumstances were. This is very serious.”