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China expects to tighten controls over the export of fossils, a senior official with the Ministry of Land and Resources disclosed yesterday.

"The ministry and the General Administration of Customs will jointly produce a special regulation on fossil exports - the first of its kind in China - before the end of September," said Jiang Jianjun, director of the Ministry's geological environment department.

Jiang said it would be premature to release details of the regulation, but that the export of fossils would only be allowed with the approval of government departments, adding that the approvals would be hard to get.

According to Jiang, China has improved its management of fossils in the past five years, adopting its first national regulation for their protection and establishing 30 fossil preservation zones.

However, there is still much room for improvement.

"Long-standing academic disputes have meant we are yet to establish clear-cut operational standards that distinguish valuable fossils from those not so precious. Therefore, it is really hard to forbid illegal transactions of fossils promptly and effectively," said Jiang.

"But we should at least try our best to keep as many of these fossils in our country as possible until more effective measures are found."

Although no accurate figures are available, various reports contend many valuable animal fossils have been, and are still being, smuggled out of China. They include dinosaur egg fossils found in Northeast China's Liaoning Province and dinosaur fossils found in Southwest China's Guizhou Province.

On Tuesday, Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province announced the biggest ever seizure of smuggled fossils by Chinese customs.

According to Cai Zhiming, an official with Shenzhen custom's anti-smuggling section, as many as 2,165 fossils have been seized in the case, most of which are considered by experts to be of high academic value.

Cai said no decision has been made on the future of the fossils but they would be properly looked after.

(China Daily 08/07/2003 page2)


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