First Published: 2017-02-28

Geologists demand return of Moroccan 'Nessie'
Geologists in Morocco denounce planned auction in Paris of 66-million-year-old plesiosaur skeleton.
Middle East Online

Skeleton of Zarafasaura Oceanis, a marine plesiosaur

RABAT - Geologists in Morocco on Tuesday denounced the planned auction of a 66-million-year-old marine dinosaur skeleton in Paris and demanded that the remains be repatriated.

The nearly nine-metre-long plesiosaur, a marine reptile with a long neck and turtle-like flippers, was discovered in a phosphate basin near the Moroccan city of Khouribga.

The skeleton is set for auction on March 7 at the Drouot auction house in Paris.

"The plesiosaurs were among the most emblematic 'giant primitive beasts' which have intrigued scientists and amateurs for centuries," Drouot said in its auction catalogue, adding that the creatures had probably inspired the legend of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.

But the Association for the Protection of the Geological Heritage of Morocco (APPGM) on Tuesday criticised the planned auction, saying the skeleton was a "unique patrimonial treasure".

It said it had asked Morocco's chief geologist to find out if it had been authorised for export.

If not, the association would ask the Moroccan authorities to "intervene with the organisers of the sale to restitute the plesiosaurus to its country of origin, Morocco", it said.

Alexandre Giquello, auctioneer and president of Drouot, said the creature was "reconstituted in Europe from four fossils legally bought at the Frankfurt Trade Fair" by Italian collectors.

A Moroccan company had offered them for sale along with the necessary export papers, he said.

"I understand that this sale creates a stir, but we should also respect the private initiative that allowed the reconstruction of this plesiosaur, which is part of humanity's heritage," he added.

Drouot said the specimen had been screened for customs compliance and checked by customs and heritage authorities in Italy" prior to being prepared for sale.

The skeleton, which Drouot says is 75-percent complete, will be on display at the Paris auction house from March 4-7.

APPGM said it was likely to fetch around $477,000 (450,000 euros).

"This specimen is the only complete specimen of... museum quality on the market, and the first available for a private collection," Drouot said.

"The only existing comparable specimen is exhibited in the United States at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis."

Moroccan media, citing an official at the ministry of energy and mines, said the remains had been smuggled out of the country.

The Medias24 website said the foreign ministry had been asked "to inform the French authorities of the illegality of the sale and to request the return of the skeleton to its country of origin".

The Moroccan authorities have not commented publicly on the subject.

APPGM said Morocco's geological heritage was globally recognised for its richness and diversity.

But it added that "in the absence of regulatory texts... this heritage is undergoing a systematic and continuous deterioration."

 

Terrorist bomb attack kills 22 at UK pop concert

Trump says Israelis, Palestinians ‘can make a deal’

Bahrain police raid Shiite sit-in killing one protester

US forces raid Al-Qaeda in Yemen, kill seven jihadists

Faz3a, a local NGO mobilising young people to help Mosul refugees

Prominent Egypt rights lawyer detained

Oil producers to extend output curbs at OPEC meeting

NATO aims to break Turkey-Austria partnership deadlock

Tunisia tensions simmer after protester's death

Five dead in Syria car bomb attacks

Syria civilians suffer deadliest month of US-led strikes

Islamists to join Algeria cabinet despite poor results

Tunisia's 2.1% GDP growth marks economic upturn

Trump meets Palestinian leader in Bethlehem

Istanbul demolishes nightclub targeted in New Year attack

WHO says 315 cholera deaths in Yemen in under one month

Trump seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace, lashes out at Iran again

Tunisia police use tear gas on protesters

Palestinians protest for hunger-striking prisoners

GCC and Arab League call for Yemen unity

Turkey's alleged coup ringleaders stand trial

Iran’s reformists sweep to power across major cities

Israel makes concessions to Palestinians 'at Trump's request'

Ivanka hales Saudi progress on women’s rights

Looming showdown between Egypt’s president, judges

Netanyahu says will discuss peace efforts with Trump

Bahrain sentences Shiite cleric to suspended jail term

Trump scandals no issue for Saudi says minister

Saudi women celebrate easing of guardianship system, call for more freedoms

Hamas sentences three to death for commander assassination

Rouhani faces fight with hardliners in US, Iran after election win

Trump to urge Muslim leaders to fight extremism in major speech

Trump tells Sisi he will soon visit Egypt

US, Saudi agree arms deals worth almost $110 billion

Iran's Rouhani wins re-election

Egypt marks MS804 crash with ceremony and no information

Trump lands in Riyadh on first foreign tour

IS bombing kills 35 in Iraq

US Pentagon plans to 'annihilate' IS

Dictator's nephew apologises to Tunisia for corruption

Trump heads to Saudi Arabia as domestic scandals mount

Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran

US and Saudi Arabia blacklist Hezbollah 'terrorist'

UN envoy slams deadly attack in Libya's south

Syria, allies condemn attack by US-led coalition