The sale of a dinosaur’s tail by an auction house in Mexico for about $97,000 has raised controversy and concern among authorities in Morocco.
Controversy About The Auction
The 13-foot-long tail weighing 396 pounds was sold to an unspecified agency, after being found in Morocco in the 1980s. It belonged to a sauropod of the Atlasaurus imelakei species, which lived in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains around 165 million years ago.
On learning that it was auctioned off, officials in Morocco are investigating whether the fossil was legally exported or not. They are curious about finding the exact channel of people the fossil passed hands through before being auctioned to a Mexican collector.
“We will first contact the auction house to see if the seller has legal import certificates allowing him to resell this piece of our history,” said Abdellah Alaoui, from Morocco’s Ministry of Culture. “If he is in good faith, Morocco will have no other choice than to buy it back from the new buyer to repatriate him to Morocco.”
Alaoui also added that if the massive fossil was bought and left Morocco illegally, then the Moroccan embassy in Mexico City would be activating a special process to cancel the sale and then send back the patrimonial property.
The fossilized dinosaur tail was auctioned to raise funds for reconstructing thousands of schools that faced damage due to two earthquakes, which occurred in Mexico in September, killing around 480 people and resulted in destruction worth billions of dollars.
“Education is an element of enormous importance for the country, an element of social mobility, that is why we support the reconstruction of schools,” said Adolfo Albo, who is from the BBVA Bancomer Foundation.
Not The First Moroccan Controversy Related To Fossils
This is not the first case of Moroccan authorities dealing with an incident like the sale of the fossil. A sea dinosaur’s skeleton dating back to 66 million years was returned to Morocco in April 2017 by an auction company in Paris.
The Morton auction house acquired the tail of the Atlasaurus from the Petra Gallery, which said that the fossil was legally purchased in the United States.
Incidentally, selling fossils discovered in Mexican territories are not legal, as they are taken to be national property. The law, however, does not prohibit the sale of fossils discovered outside the country.
“We will not stay with our hands crossed,” Alaoui said. “This is about our national heritage. There will be an investigation to find out how this fossil, of a species that only exists in Morocco, was able to leave the country.”