When paleontologists uncover a dinosaur, they have plenty of reason to worry. In some parts of the world, such as Mongolia, black market thieves often steal and smuggle dinosaurs that wind up bringing in hefty sums at auction houses. Sometimes, paleontologists have returned to field sites to find skeletons stolen right out from under their noses. But, even closer to home, vandals regularly damage and destroy dinosaurs. Earlier this month, an “irreplaceable” dinosaur skeleton discovered near Grande Prairie, Canada was destroyed by persons unknown.
According t0 the CBC, the destroyed skeleton was a hadrosaur being excavated by paleontologist Phil Bell and a University of Alberta field team. The dinosaur was discovered on June 15th, and was complete enough that Bell intended the dinosaur to eventually go up on exhibit. When Bell returned to the site this month, however, the dinosaur was turned into a cascade of broken bone fragments. Even worse, this isn’t the first time dinosaurs at this site have been vandalized. Since May, the report says, three other fossils have been stolen or damaged.
There’s no clear motive for why the criminals smashed the site. But they vandals left a clue behind. At a campsite near the dinosaur excavation, the CBC reports, investigators found a liquor store receipt that may help track down the people who so callously pulverized the hadrosaur.
I’m completely baffled as to why anyone would want to destroy a dinosaur. The fantastic animal beat the odds against preservation and remained locked in stone for tens of millions of years, and can tell us about a world that we can never see ourselves. What sort of stupid, selfish person would even think of turning a wonderful fossil into a pile of rubble? It is truly sad that paleontologists have to worry about this kind of destruction. Dinosaurs belong to everyone, and it’s heartbreaking to see one stolen from us by ignorant despoilers.