A treasure trove of high quality dinosaur fossils have been looted from Mongolia, and now the United States government is stepping up actions to send back these invaluable cultural artifacts.

But the crown gem of these illicitly obtained fossils is the nearly complete tyrannosaurus skeleton smuggled into the US by paleontologist Eric Prokopi. The massive meat eater’s fossilized skeleton had to have been shipped to the United States piece by piece to slip under the radar until the skeleton could be assembled in New York. The impressive tarbosaurus (Asian tyrannosaur) was sold to a private bidder for $1,052,500 in 2012. Other than the 8 foot long impressively constructed T-Rex, 400lbs of fossils were confiscated from Eric’s home in Gainesville, Florida. He has pled guilty for the fossil smuggling charges and is currently awaiting sentencing.

Other skeletal dinosaur fossils being flown to Mongolia include other tyrannosaurs, six oviraptors, a few gallimimuses, a microraptor and many others. Smuggling fossils from Mongolia has been a crime since 1924, and all of these seized fossils were unearthed decades since the ban.

The Mongolian government intends to display the homecoming fossils in a pending national dinosaur museum.

Sources: CBS, Global Post

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