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‘Priceless’ illegal fossils returned to China

keichousaurus-head-hr.jpgAustralia has returned a 750 kilo cache of illegally imported fossils to China.

“Some are believed to be up to 450 million years old, and are valued up to $100,000. However the rarest are considered priceless because of their value to China’s scientific and cultural heritage,” says Australia’s rock star environment minister Peter Garrett, making his second appearance on the Great Beyond in as many days (press release PDF).

Collected by officials over two years, the fossils included dinosaurs, mammals, reptiles, eggs and crustaceans. All will be returned for preservation and research, says Garrett, although they will doubtless have lost much of their scientific value by being taken away from the context their locations could have provided.

“China is working very hard and seriously on the conservation of its natural and cultural heritage. Such reckless risk-taking will not escape the punishment of the law,” says Zhang Junsai, China’s ambassador (Reuters).

Strangely, according to The Australian no one has been prosecuted for importing the fossils in the first place

Other seizures returned recently under Australia’s 1986 Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act include 130 kilograms of fossils returned to the Argentinia in August 2007, 16 Dyak Skulls returned to Malaysia in May 2007, and an Asmat human skull from Papua returned to Indonesia in December 2006 (press release pdf).

More photos.

Image: Keichousaurus head / copyright to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts

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