Wednesday, 4 July 2012

More Dinosaur-Smuggling Cases May Follow on Tyrannosaur's Heels

Mongolia's claim to a tyrannosaur skeleton that experts agree was smuggled out of the country has captured international attention. However, this dinosaur's situation does not appear unique.

Other fossils from the same species of Mongolian dinosaur, as well as other specimens linked to that fossil-rich country, are not difficult to find in auction house catalogs or on eBay.

They may not be for long: According to Robert Painter, the Houston-based attorney representing the Mongolian president in the tyrannosaur case, the Mongolian government is putting plans in place to monitor sales like the $1.1 million purchase in May of the tyrannosaur at auction, in the hope of intercepting material taken illegally from within its borders.

Not the only one
The dinosaur skeleton, which Heritage Auctions put up for bid May 20 in New York, is a type of tyrannosaur called Tarbosaurus bataar. Its remains are plentiful in the Nemegt Formation within Mongolia's share of the Gobi Desert, where the only clearly identifiable Tarbosaurus fossils have been found. 

Mongolian law in place since 1924 declares vertebrate fossils excavated within its borders to be state property and makes smuggling valuable artifacts, including fossils, a crime.

In the same auction, Heritage offered Tarbosaurus teeth and the skull of an armored dinosaur, called an ankylosaurid, which paleontologists said are also likely from Mongolia.

Mongolia's president, Elbegdorj Tsakhia, recently enlisted the U.S. Attorney's Office in his fight to have the skeleton returned to his country. No other items have been drawn into the court case. 


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