Paleontologists have reported that there is an active black market where traffickers provide customers dinosaur fossils for sale. The customers, who are usually in the high-income bracket, purchase dinosaur fossils as a collectable items or as artwork.
In certain countries where dinosaur fossils are known to be buried, the buying and selling of the remains is illegal. However, in certain countries, such as the United States allows for a commercial market in fossils. Yet, in the United States, it is illegal to take dinosaur fossils from public lands and then sell them to the public.
In a case from 2012, an American man pleaded guilty for smuggling fossils from Mongolia. The man was attempting to sell a 70 million year old Tyrannosaurus Bataar. The dinosaur’s fossils were valued at $15,000, but was set to be sold for $1 Million at an auction before US officials shut down the sale and returned the fossils to Mongolia.
The illegal dinosaur fossil seller also sold a Sauroplus angustirostris skeleton for $75,000.
Experts believe that the black market in dinosaur fossils took off after the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was sold to a Chicago museum at a 1997 auction for $8.26 Million.
Source: Erik Ortiz, “Fossil Theft Raises Concerns About Bustling Black Market,” NBC News, February 21, 2014.