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SOS Rhino : In the News : Smuggled fossils seized
 

Smuggled fossils seized

  Borneo Bulletin
June 18, 2004

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police have seized 20 tonnes of dinosaur eggs and other valuable fossils allegedly smuggled from China in one of the biggest operations of its kind worldwide, officials said Thursday.

Federal police found more than 1,300 fossils, including 75-million-year-old dinosaur eggs and fish remains believed to be up to 300 million years old when they raided two shops and a home near the western city of Perth last week.

Kevin Wohlers, director of the federal Department of Environment's Movable Cultural Heritage Unit, said the raids were carried out at China's request following a year-long operation.

"The Chinese requested the Australian government assist them with their efforts to halt the illegal trade of Chinese fossils," Wohlers said.

Believed to be worth millions of dollars, the haul of fossils is the biggest ever seized in Australia and one of the largest recovered worldwide, Wohlers said.

Australian palaeontology experts said the fossils appear to have been smuggled from China's Liaoning province, regarded as one of the world's top spots for dinosaur research.

The find included fossilised mammals, a rhino skull from the Miocene period, rare tortoise remains and skulls, eggs and nests of various types of dinosaur, including theropods, sauropods and oviraptors.

It is not illegal to import such fossils into Australia, but it is illegal to export them from China and smugglers can be prosecuted under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act.

Police said they were continuing their investigation and that the intended destination of the fossils was not yet clear. No arrests were reported. Wohlers said the fossils would be returned to China.

"There appears to be a very large trade worldwide in fossils, and many enforcement agencies around the globe are looking at the illegal fossil trade," he said.

"This is probably the first time a government has taken this type of action to facilitate and assist the Chinese in stemming the illegal trade. They have got serious problems, it is fair to say," he added.



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