Tuesday, January 29, 2013

United States of America vs. One Tyrannosaurus bataar Skeleton

Many countries have laws to prevent the export of fossils and other natural treasures, including Mongolia, which encompasses the Gobi Desert, a rich source of dramatic dinosaur fossils. However, "fossil poaching" is rife, given the vastness of the desert and the lucrative profits that can be made on the high-end fossil market. When a three-quarters-complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton went on auction in New York in 2012, the Mongolian government asked US authorities to intercede, because it had likely been illegally smuggled out of Mongolia. The sale was halted, and the fossil put into storage as the legal challenge moved forward:
"Two weeks later, in downtown Manhattan, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York sued for custody of the specimen, on behalf of the nation of Mongolia. Procedure required that an arrest warrant be issued against the dinosaur itself, so the action became known as United States of America v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton."
Read more on the story of this outrageously brazen auction attempt, and the legal battle that ensued.

Update (9 May 2013): The bones were handed over by the US to the Mongolian government on Monday, putting this legal saga to an end. According to the Mongolian culture and tourism minister, they intend to set up a dinosaur museum in Mongolia, as they do not currently have such a museum to display their fossils. It's surprising that they don't have one already, given the importance of the Gobi Desert as a source of important and dramatic vertebrate fossils.

No comments: