Saturday, April 30, 2005

India Losing Priceless Dinosaur Fossils

From Sify comes a report by Vijay Dabur in Chandigarh:

Rich fossilized remains of dinosaurs in parts of India are being lost as tribes in these areas are selling them to foreigners who know the value of the product in the international market, according to Dr Ashu Khosla.

Dr. Khosla has been working for over 14 years to excavate fossil dinosaur skeletal remains from the Cretaceous deposits of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. More recently, the scientist excavated two big femur bones of a plant-eating dinosaur (Sauropod) from deposits in Madhya Pradeshs Dhar district. According to him, these gigantic bones are about 1.2 metres in length and the total length of the animal was 25 metres and is the oldest fossil record of dinosaurs from Central India. However, the tribal population and poor people of these areas were excavating dinosaur fossils unscientifically and selling them to foreigners, which is worrying the scientists of the local Punjab University's department of Geology. "Some tribes, especially Bheel, store fossil eggs of the dinosaur in their houses and sell them to foreigners at a price ranging between Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 per egg," says the scientist. "It is unfortunate that India is ignorant about the value of these precious fossils of dinosaurs. The practice of tribals selling them for peanuts is ruining our geology," he says.

According to the scientist, the price of fossilized egg of dinosaur is around Rs 2.5 lakh in the international market. In the past 14 years, around 15,000 eggs of the monstrous reptiles, some of them going up to 25 metre in length, had been discovered in India, says Khosla. The scientist says Indian dinosaur nesting sites are extensive and are found along a 10,000-sq-km stretch of river Narmada from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to Kutch in Gujarat.