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Broome Dinosaur Tracks

The following story appeared in "The Australian" newspaper, Friday November
Following in Stolen Dinosaur Footprints

Natalie O'Brien

Australian Federal Police have launched an international hunt for a 120
million-year-old fossilised dinosaur footprint, stolen from a sacred site
near Broome.
     Federal agents in Europe and Japan are on the trail of what is thought
to be a theropod print and other rare human footprints, which are possibly
worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
     Two West Australian men were charged with stealing the footprints from
a sacred site 180km north of Broome.
     Charges were laid while the country was still reeling from the theft of
another priceless Aboriginal artwork from the Tasmanian wilderness possibly
destined for the international black market.
     AFP agent Russell Northcott said the Australian Customs Service had
been called in to work on the case and officials were confident of finding
the rare and significant artefacts, believed to have disappeared late last year.
     "There is a large demand for these sorts of objects in Europe and
Japan," he said.
     "But we have good leads and yes, we hope to recover them."
     Further charges may be laid if it can be proved the artefacts were
taken out of the country.
     The men are due to appear in court next week and could face a maximum
penalty of seven years' jail after being charged under the State's Criminal
     The footprints, including the rare 7000-year-old human
tracks,disappeared from secret areas around the artefact-rich land around
Broome in Western Australia's steamy north-west.
     They were taken just over a year after Australia's only known set of
stegosaurus prints - the one piece of direct evidence that the dinosaur
existed in this country - were hacked from the rock in another sacred Broome
     Museum of Western Australia palaeontologist John Long said Broome was
one of Australia's richest areas for dinosaur relics, representing a diverse
range of species.
     But while there are many prints and fossils in the region, he said it
was impossible to tell how many may have been taken over the years.
     Queensland University palaeontologist Tony Thulborn said the locations
and, often, photos of tracks and relics were kept secret in order to
safeguard them.
     The removal of the theropod and human prints, according to Broome's
Detective Sergeant Shayne Maines, had a large "cultural impact" on the local
Aboriginal community.   [end]
At some points it strains the limits of factual accuracy (e.g. they weren't
the ONLY known set of ?stegosaur prints), but is more or less correct.  The
mention of "large cultural impact" in the last sentence is something of an
understatement.   I'll keep you posted.

Tony Thulborn