The National Geological Museum (Beijing) receives “Black Market” Fossils from Australia
A collection of rare fossil dinosaur eggs, fossilised dinosaur bones, fossils of ancient mammals, reptiles and Palaeozoic arthropods has been returned to China. These items had been smuggled out of the country by dealers selling on the “Black Market”. The haul was seized by Australian police officers in raids on several sites and offices in Western Australia. This joint Chinese/Australian police effort to reduce the smuggling of Chinese fossils, has been in operation since 2004. This shipment of mixed Mesozoic and Palaeozoic specimens weighs more than 750 Kgs and would have fetched a small fortune for the smugglers had these artifacts found their way into the hands of private collectors.
This unusual contraband has been delivered to the National Geological Museum of China (based in Beijing). Chinese scientists will be able to catalogue, study and preserve these rare finds helping to shed further light on prehistoric China.
The collection includes 1,300 fossilised dinosaur eggs. In the west, it is traditional to give eggs at Easter. Nowadays, most of the eggs are chocolate, but I suspect the palaeontologists at the National Museum of China would much prefer to have these rare and delicate specimens returned to them than have chocolate Easter eggs.
The smuggling of fossils out of China is a big business, many rare and very valuable specimens are smuggled out of the country every year. A law was passed in 2006 making all fossil finds state property in a bid to crack down on the smuggling rings. Despite the best efforts of the authorities smuggling is still common place especially in the more remote parts of China.
To read more about the smuggling of fossils from China: China Crisis – new Legislation to cut down on the Smuggling of Fossils.