Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dinosaur Skull Worth £248,000 Seized From A House In Wyoming

US Customs Officials have been startled to discover the skull of a dinosaur in a house in Wyoming. The Tyrannosaurus Bataar, a close relative of the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, was linked to a fossil smuggling ring from Mongolia. The skeleton was sold at an auction for $1.05 million (£652,000) before being seized by the US government. Robert Painter, a Houston attorney representing Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia, said officials hoped that such seizures will have a chilling effect on smuggling. 

"It's really part of what we hoped would happen ... there would be an  increased awareness across the country of Mongolian law and the U.S. government is cooperating in protecting these cultural treasures," Mr Painter said. 

He predicted there will be more such cases as word gets out about the illegal sale of Mongolian dinosaur bones.  Louis Martinez of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations said the investigation into the smuggling ring was ongoing and that he could not give any more details on the case. 

The Fossil of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Dinosaur, which lived about 70 million years ago
However, Mr Martinez confirmed it was related to the case in which a Florida fossil dealer was recently charged with smuggling dinosaur bones, including a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton, that was seized by the US government in June in a civil forfeiture action. The US government contends the bones were brought into the country illegally from Mongolia, which has laws that declare dinosaur fossils to be the property of the Mongolian government. Mr Painter quoted that some people were willing to pay big money on the black market for dinosaur bones and Mongolia is one of the places where many bones were being dug up and transported against the law. 

"The Mongolian government has learnt that there is a global marketplace for these illicit fossils and it was really something that was going on on a much larger scale than we were originally aware of," he concluded.  

Postscript: at the time of writing the seized dinosaur remains are still awaiting repatriation to Mongolia.

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