Smuggled dinosaur nest may be a fake

Updated: 2012-02-09 08:14

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

"The most expensive fossil egg I have heard of was auctioned for more than $1 million, and is stored in a museum in the US," Zhao said.

"That one was really good. We can see clearly that half of the baby dinosaur had climbed out of the egg."

However, despite the brisk trade in fake eggs, experts believe that many genuine and valuable fossils have been smuggled out of the country and they vow to curb the illegal practice.

China has so far recovered more than 5,000 fossils, including an undisclosed number of dinosaur eggs from Australia, US, Canada and Italy between 2008 and 2010, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources.

During this period, Chinese customs uncovered six smuggling cases in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing, involving more than 60 fossils, the ministry stated.

While no official estimates are available on the total number of dinosaur eggs being smuggled out of China, Zhao admitted the number was high.

"In the mid-1990s, we recovered more than 4,000 fossil eggs from a smuggler," he remembered.

"Last year, we set up a special committee with experts and officials from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the ministry and the customs department. Now we are carrying out an investigation into China's fossil reserves, and will launch a new project to create a conservation plan later this year."

Wang Lixia, a fossils expert with the Geological Museum of China, said they were trying every means to recover the country's lost fossils.

"It is easy to decide the value of gold but hard to tell the value of fossils, because they cannot be replaced," Wang said.

"In the past, we did not attach enough importance to our fossil reserves, and some fossils were smuggled from China. But now we are starting to value them."

Guan Fengjun, head of the geological department at the land and resources ministry, said the Chinese government had taken several measures to prevent the smuggling of fossil eggs.

Regulations state that people cannot dig for fossils inside a protected region without permission from the ministry, nor can they dig outside the regions without the permission of provincial authorities.

Also, protected fossils are not to leave the country except for use in scientific exchanges or exhibitions authorized by the Chinese government.

Wang said that in the future museums and protection areas would be established to safeguard fossils.