BETHESDA (May 23, 2012) – Members of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology are troubled about the sale of dinosaur specimens at auction in New York last Sunday (May 20). Renowned dinosaur paleontologist and SVP President, Dr. Philip Currie, commented, “The illegal collection and sale of fossils like “Tyrannosaurus” (Tarbosaurus) bataar is no better than poaching.”
The ethics by-law of the Society states, "The barter, sale, or purchase of scientifically significant vertebrate fossils is not condoned, unless it brings them into or keeps them within a public trust." The fossils in question, a skeleton of “Tyrannosaurus” bataar, a skull of Saichania, and several other isolated items, were almost certainly illegally collected and exported from Mongolia, their likely country of origin.
“Though these fossils could potentially be found in adjacent regions of the Gobi Desert of China, no specimens of this quality have been discovered there; and even if these fossils were originally found in China, their collection and export is still illegal,” Currie commented.
The president of Mongolia, His Excellency Elbegdorj Tsakhia initiated legal proceedings to stop the sale of his country’s heritage, although the sale went forward. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology was instrumental in passing legislation that protects fossils found on public lands in the United States and strongly supports Tsakhia's efforts, and those of others who have sought to halt the sale. “We hope that through the vigilance and expertise of members of the SVP and others, the illegal collection and sale of fossils will not occur again,” said Currie.
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Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in vertebrate paleontology. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.