Dinosaur Tracks Stolen from South Wales

On the northern side of the Bristol Channel close to the harbour area of the town of Barry lies a stretch of coastline that provides a fascinating glimpse into life in the Triassic.  The area known as Bendricks rocks consists of Carboniferous limestone overlaid by Triassic siltstones and sands that date from both the Lower and Upper Triassic.  A number of the Triassic sediments mark the location of the shoreline of a shallow lake, which dinosaurs used to skirt around on their travels.

Fossilised footprints are known from the Upper Triassic strata providing palaeontologists with important trace fossils showing Archosaurs and those other members of the Archosauria – tracks made by dinosaurs.  Unfortunately, reports from local fossil hunters suggest that some of the footprints have been cut out and removed, most likely by unscrupulous fossil dealers wanting to sell these fossils on the black market.  Sadly, there have been a number of instances of areas of important scientific value being attacked by such individuals eager to grab any fossil material they can so that they can sell them on.

Dinosaur Tracks on the Welsh Coast

Fossil site is Attacked by Fossil Thieves

Picture Credit: BBC

A number of three-toed prints can be seen on this part of the Welsh coast, indeed, there are several trackways; some of the best preserved prints have been removed and are on display at the University of Cardiff Museum.  The location which has SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status and is under the protection of the Countryside Council for Wales has been raided before, when a number of prints were removed by a local collector and offered for sale via online auction sites.  Fortunately, the police were able to recover a number of the fossil specimens.

It seems that thieves have struck again and there is evidence of stone cutting tools having been used to remove blocks which contained the dinosaur prints.  These tracks are some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks to be found anywhere in the whole of the British Isles.  However, rather than preserve them in situ for the enjoyment of all, it seems that thieves have once again targeted this location and removed fossils.

Rocks Containing Dinosaur Trace Fossils Removed

Thieves steal dinosaur fossils from SSSI.

Picture Credit: Karl-James Langford

Local expert on the fossilised prints Karl-James Langford commented:

“We were horrified that in an area where we had previously examined several footprints, they have since been taken.  As readers can see from the picture, cutting instruments have been used on the 200 million-year-old Triassic rock, in an area where footprints and the fossilised remains of wave ridges had existed a few weeks ago.”

There have been an increasing number of thefts of this kind reported over recent months.   The high prices paid for dinosaur fossils by private collectors and dealers has fuelled this illegal activity.  Last year team members at Everything Dinosaur reported on the dreadful destruction of Jurassic-aged sediments as specimen hunters smashed up strata on the Isle of Skye as they searched for marine reptile remains.

To read more about this incident: Jurassic site is Ransacked

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This is a terrible incident, sadly, this is all too common these days.  The dinosaur trackways were beautifully preserved and there for the enjoyment of everybody.  We sincerely hope that the people responsible for this vandalism are brought to justice very swiftly.”

Readers are urged to monitor online auction sites and anyone contacted in regards to the purchase of dinosaur footprints should, if they are suspicious, contact South Wales police: South Wales Police Website

Update

The stolen fossilised dinosaur footprints were recovered at the end of the month (August 2012), when it was discovered that suspicious dinosaur footprints that resembled those stolen from the protected site were being offered for sale on Ebay and in a shop at Lyme Regis.  A tip off led the police to the prints, which are now likely to be kept in a museum, rather than put back in situ.  Sergeant Ian Guildford of South Wales Police said a man from the Cardiff area, whom he described as a local amateur geologist, had been cautioned for criminal damage and theft from a protected site.  Fossils can be legally collected and sold, but not if they come from a protected or restricted site.  The fossil dealers involved in this case claimed that they had received the fossils from legal sources.

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