Stolen Dinosaur Fossils Returned to Mongolia

Looted Dinosaur Fossils Returned Home to Mongolia

This week saw another success in the fight against illegal fossil smuggling and the black market in rare artefacts such as prehistoric animal fossils.  Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs returned a number of dinosaur skeletons and other fossils to the Mongolian government.  In a ceremony held in New York, investigators from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) handed over fossils that had been recovered from Wyoming and the “big apple”.

An Articulated Psittacosaurus Dinosaur Skeleton Part of the Haul Being Repatriated

A Psittacosuaurus skeleton part of a haul being returned to Mongolia.

A Psittacosaurus skeleton part of a haul being returned to Mongolia.

Picture Credit: ICE

A law passed in the 1920’s forbids the removal of artefacts deemed to be of significant cultural value from Mongolia, the returned items include nearly complete skeletons of the basal horned dinosaurs Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus, along with a beautifully preserved nest of Protoceratops eggs.  In addition, the fossils of the duck-billed dinosaur Bactrosaurus and the skull of a tyrannosaurid Alioramus as well as the skull of Psittacosaurus were returned.

Commenting on the significance of the returns, Peter Edge, (HSI’s Executive Associate Director) stated:

“Today’s ceremony is an excellent demonstration of the co-operation between HSI, our colleagues at the Department of Justice and our foreign counterparts with the Government of Mongolia.  A successful repatriation requires extensive co-operation among all parties involved, which is rewarded by the knowledge that we’ve returned what rightfully belongs to the people of Mongolia.”

Building on the Success of the Tarbosaurus bataar Repatriation

U.S. customs most noteworthy success came in 2013 with the high profile repatriation of a mounted Tarbosaurus bataar skeleton that had originally been put up for auction in New York the year before.  Tarbosaurus, like Alioramus was a member of the Tyrannosauridae family, this case resulted in the prosecution and eventual jailing of Florida fossil dealer Eric Prokopi.

To read more about this:  American Fossil Dealer Jailed for Dinosaur Smuggling

The Tarbosaurus case brought to the world’s attention the problem of illegal fossil dealing, it laid the foundation for much greater co-operation between governments and other federal bodies and sent a very clear message to the unscrupulous dealers and their middle men.  In this latest ceremony, a total of twenty-three dinosaur fossils were handed over to the Mongolian government.

The Mounted Skeleton of the Hadrosaur Bactrosaurus

Bactrosaurus fossils repatriated to Mongolia

Bactrosaurus fossils repatriated to Mongolia

Picture Credit: ICE

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the parties involved in achieving such a successful conclusion.  These efforts will further strengthen cross-border co-operation and bilateral ties between nations as authorities attempt to reduce the level of fossil smuggling and the illegal removal and export of rare artefacts from Asia.”

An Almost Complete Protoceratops Skeleton

Protoceratops fossil skeleton returned to Mongolia.

Protoceratops fossil skeleton returned to Mongolia.

Picture Credit: ICE

HSI’s specially trained investigators, assigned to both domestic and international offices, partner with governments, agencies and experts to protect cultural antiquities.  They also train investigators from other nations and agencies to investigate crimes involving stolen property and art, and how to best enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace.  Those involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property, art and antiquities can face prison terms of up to twenty years, fines and possible restitution to the purchasers of the items.

This is just the latest success for the HSI, since 2007 this American organisation has repatriated more than 8,000 items to more than thirty countries.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement media team for the compilation of this article.

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