24 Jun 2012

Dinosaur bones seized

5:39 am on 24 June 2012

The skeleton of a giant Asian dinosaur, which was auctioned last month in the United States, has been impounded after Mongolia demanded it back, saying that it had been looted.

The Tyrannosaurus Bataar, a seven-metre cousin of Tyrannosaurus Rex, inhabited the Gobi Desert about 70 million years ago.

President Elbegdorj Tsakhia demanded that the skeleton be returned to his country after it was auctioned on 20 May for $US1.05 million by Heritage Auctions in Dallas.

A US government lawsuit filed in New York on behalf of Mongolia said the customs forms filed when the skeleton was imported, incorrectly stated the country of origin was Great Britain.

An order to seize the fossil was issued on Tuesday.

The skeleton will be held by the US government while legal proceedings on its future continue.

Anyone who comes forward to claim ownership will have to prove they are the rightful owner or the US will repatriate the skeleton to Mongolia.

The skeleton was discovered in 1946 during a joint Soviet-Mongolian expedition to the Gobi Desert.

Heritage Auctions and the Mongolian government agreed in May to jointly investigate the ownership of the skeleton.

Paleontologists examined the bones and determined they were removed from the western Gobi Desert between 1995 - 2005.