It isn’t enough that the United States consumes nearly 23 percent of the world’s old, chewed-up dinosaur bones. Nor was it enough for Hollywood to commission Jurassic Park sequels 2, 3, and 4. Clearly, one of us had to go steal a gen-u-ine dinosaur bones from Mongolia to satisfy our collective pre-history fix. Except now the feds are making us give the dinosaur back.
Before the 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was sold for $1,052,500 at a Chelsea auction house, the Mongolian government sought a temporary restraining order on its exchange. A Texas state judge granted the order, but the dinosaur bones were sold off anyway, because America. On Monday morning, however, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara announced the US would be giving Mongolia back its “million dollar baby.”
“Of course, that million dollar price tag–as high as it is–doesn’t begin to describe the true value of an artifact that is part of the fabric of a country’s natural history and cultural heritage–priceless,” Bharara said.
In 2012, Florida paleontologist Eric Prokopi, former owner of the bones, was charged with conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods. Later that year, Prokopi pleaded guilty to import the fossils of the Bataar, along with several other dinosaur skeletons.
“Our two countries are separated by many miles, but share a passion for justice and a commitment to putting an end to illegal smuggling,” Mongolian president Tsakhia Elbegdorj said in a statement, thanking ICE for cracking down on the illegal transfer.
“That belongs in a museum,” added the specter of America’s most famous post-colonialist smuggler, Indiana Jones.