Few are aware that an international black market for complete dinosaur skeletons is a growing menace to governments of dino-rich territories. The latest example of which is an international custody battle which recently came to an end to an end with a rare, almost complete dinosaur skeleton of an unfathomably rare Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton (the Asian cousin of the North American Tyrannosaurus Rex) being returning to Mongolia where it was discovered then looted. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement will officially restore ownership of the skeleton to the Mongolian government on Monday.
CBS This Morning reports: “This dinosaur, a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, once stood 8-feet tall and was 24 feet long. The prehistoric predator roamed the sands of the Gobi Desert more than 70 million years ago. Legally, any fossil found in Mongolia belongs to the country and its people. But the skeleton was smuggled into the United States by a commercial paleontologist, Eric Prokopi, and then auctioned off for more than $1 million. John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explained on ‘CBS This Morning’ the dinosaur was smuggled into the U.S. in multiple shipments. Dug up ‘in the dead of night’ 10 to 15 years ago, Morton said the shipments were made with falsified Customs declarations. ‘(They smuggled it in by) saying that it came from countries that it didn’t, saying it was something it wasn’t. This was a very large dinosaur. Hundreds of bones. Had to brought in, actually from the rock in which it was dug up in the Gobi Desert, and then ultimately assembled here in New York.'”
In October, investigators seized 400 pounds of fossils from Prokopi’s home in Gainesville, Fla. Nine dinosaur skeletons were eventually seized from Prokopi. Prokopi eventually pled guilty to charges related to fossil smuggling in December, and is awaiting sentencing. You can watch the full CBS This Morning report on the global dinosaur smuggling network below. For another great read be sure to check out this FEELguide story from August 2012: “Renowned Paleontologist & Inspiration For “Jurassic Park” Says We’ll Having Living Dinos In 5 Years“.