Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 12:07 p.m.
Sometimes, on a beautiful Saturday, we find a story like this that makes the day even better.
This past week, the head paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History, Mark Norell, noticed
a small auction with a listing that should have probably
not been there. The auction item was a 11-million-year-old skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus bataar - a creature from the Cretaceous Period that was discovered for the first time in the Gobi Desert by the Soviets in the 1940s.
It is 8 feet tall, 24 feet long and somehow found itself in the hands of a Florida man who described himself as a "commercial paleontologist," similar to the guy who thought Jurassic Park was a good idea.
Norell notified the U.S. government of his finding and, when an anonymous bidder bought the skeleton for a $1.052 million, authorities swept in and put the transaction on hold
. Now, the remains of "Ty" - the dinosaur's clever nickname - are being held in crates in some unknown Queens locations. It will soon be shipped back to its home in Mongolia - a move praised by the country's President, Elbegdorj Tsakshia. Eric Prokopki told authorities that he obtained the specimen in a legal manner but that opinion runs in contrast to the opinions of several professional paleontologists who examined the remains this week.
Yeah, so that's what happening right now in New York City.
Apparently, Prokopki has been in the process of creating the skeleton for the past two years with the help of these bones and other crushed rocks. It was his final artful project that he put on the auction list for all that money. In other words, the man from Gainesville, Florida, is in the business of acquiring and re-selling... dinosaur remains. If that's not a niche market, we do not know what is.
When the remains were taken from Prokopki, he gave
the Wall Street Journal
a brilliant response to how he felt about the government's search and seizure: "My reaction to the government driving away with my dinosaur in a large white truck is the reaction I imagine Indiana Jones had to the ark being put into storage at the end of his film." Those are some strong words right there.
Prokopki picked up his dinosaur in March of 2010 from Great Britain, where legal import documents stated the skeleton had originated from with a net worth of $15,000. Of course, this was untrue and, earlier this week, a Manhattan federal judge ordered the seizure from a Dallas company called Heritage Auctions, arguing that the fossils had been smuggled here under false information.
And that's it. There was a dinosaur being sold for a million dollars in New York. Now, it is heading to the Siberian coast. We have no other punch line.