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fossil theft



>HOT NEWS FLASH !!!
>
>A huge worldwide fossil theft operation, accounting for * OVER 99% *
>of the theft from public lands has been discovered. 
>[much deleted], i.e. EROSION...
>
>-Paul
>

Yes, very funny, and indeed true.  However, what Paul has missed from the
last several postings was that A) none of the specimens discussed were
collected from U.S. federal land and B) several of them were apparently
stolen from the hands of private collectors (either citizens or musuems). 
Would Paul be quite as funny if someone broke into the Black Hills
Institute and stole all the specimens that are still there (i.e., those the
U.S. government hadn't confiscated)?  I don't think so.

There is a difference here between the rights of citizens to collect on
public lands of their own nations (a much debated subject, and one which
hasn't been resolved for the U.S.) and the fact that many important
specimens have been pilfered from important collections (PIN in Moscow,
Museum of Paleontology at the University of La Rioja, etc.).  The second
example is clearly criminal in any nation.

                                     
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile
U.S. Geological Survey
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092

email:  tholtz@geochange.er.usgs.gov 
Phone:  703-648-5280
FAX:            703-648-5420