July 2 2012
To all AAPS Members.
The writing is on the internet - all over the internet as well as on TV and in newspapers. We are at an important crossroads. The current publicized mess with the Tarbosaurus (Tyrannosaurus) bataar from Heritage Auction has opened our eyes to the worldwide scrutiny in dealing with illegal fossils. We are so sorry that another conflicted dinosaur story is again in the news, perhaps something good will come out of it as well.
When Heritage Auction chose to go ahead with the auction, while the legality of the specimen was still in question, it did everyone a big disservice. Unfortunately, as a direct result of their action, they have put all commercial collectors in a negative spotlight and will have people second guessing the legality of all fossils in the future. Heritage Auctions co-chairman, Jim Halperin, issued this statement: "We auctioned the Tyrannosaurus bataar conditionally, subject to future court rulings, so this matter is now in the hands of lawyers and politicians. We believe our consignor purchased fossils in good faith, than spent a year of his life and considerable expense identifying, restoring, mounting and preparing what had previously been a much less valuable matrix of unassembled, underlying bones. We sincerely hope there will be a just and fair outcome for all parties." Whatever that outcome may be, we hope that everyone will learn a valuable lesson from what happened with respect to the Tarbosaurus sale from Heritage Auction.
AAPS needs to take a strong stand against the illegal trade of fossils both nationally and internationally. We, as an organization and as independent businesses and honest, hard working individuals, should not stand idly by and let this continue but rather we need to find a way to inform our members and the public what is legal and what is not. We need to be aware that there are illegal fossils coming in from China, Mongolia as well as other countries. I appeal to all of you to not only be informed, but also to help inform others of the potential problems anyone can get into, no matter where they live, if they try to defy the laws of any country.
For the welfare of this organization and for each other, every member of AAPS must also follow the guidelines of our Code of Ethics. There should be no exceptions. We as individuals need to know and respect the laws and regulations of each and every country we collect and work in and to find out the import and export laws of those countries as well. Furthermore, our organization should try to become a source to research the laws and regulations for as many countries that we can in regard to fossil collecting, buying, selling, import and export. Ignorance will then not be an excuse.
Most of us are in the business, not because we are trying to get rich, but because we love fossils and want to spend our lives working with them. There is nothing we would rather do than collect and prepare fossils. We are the ones that make new discoveries and get new fossils described. We are the ones in the field, in the lab and creating displays that make the museums look good. But even with all of that, it only takes one or two individuals to make all of us look bad. Please let's all do what we can to make everyone of us look like the professionals we are. Don't give ammunition to those who would make us all look like thieves. Let us join in to fight the war against illegal fossils with those who have been fighting us. Let us be the better for it
Neal L. Larson - President; Tracie Bennitt - Past President and the entire Board of Directors Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences