"The sale of this next lot will be contingent on a satisfactory resolution of a court proceeding dealing with this matter."
May 22, 2012 2:15 PM   Subscribe

On May 20th, the fossil remains of a Tarbosaurus (aka, Tyrannosaurus bataar) were sold for $1,052,500. The auction was carried out despite objections from the President of Mongolia and a court order. The problem? The remains may have been poached.
posted by brundlefly (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Man, isn't it public domain yet?
posted by Trurl at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Tarbosaurus summary: T. Bataar is likely a smaller relative of T. Rex, from a slightly older period, and possibly restricted to what-is-now-Asia. There seems to be mild controversy over everything but the dating (as opposed to my life).
posted by notionoriety at 2:41 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't ever read the novel "Tyrannosaur Canyon" for a subtle and nuanced take on this practice.
posted by Earthtopus at 3:19 PM on May 22, 2012

Tyrannosaurus bataar

An awesome name for a Mongolian metal band. Bonus points if you also have Tuvan throat singing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:27 PM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm appalled. Poaching is entirely the wrong way to prepare Tarbosaurus soup.
posted by srboisvert at 3:33 PM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Paging Mr de Camp, L Sprague de Camp to the white courtesy phone please.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:58 PM on May 22, 2012

"Right after the auctioneer announced that the sale of the Tarbosaurus was contingent upon the resolution of the legal dispute, Painter stood up to state that he had the judge who issued the restraining order on the phone and that going ahead with the auction was a violation of that order. At that point, according to a press release issued by Painter’s law firm, “Heritage Auctions, Inc. President Greg Rohan rushed toward Painter, refused to speak with Judge Cortez, asked Painter to leave the room and directed that the auction proceed.”"

Err, wouldn't this be pretty seriously illegal? Regardless of how the skeleton's legality works out in the long term, you can't just directly violate a judge's restraining order. I imagine they hoped to argue interpretation by making the sale contingent upon the legal ruling, but that pretty much flew out the window when the judge specifically said that wasn't ok and they did it anyway.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:32 PM on May 22, 2012

Well, the restraining order was to block the sale, while these guys haven't actually sold the skeleton, they just took a 'pre-order'

Also, the judge was a district court judge in Dallas, Texas - not in NY. I'm not really sure how much authority he actually had to stop the sale. I actually have no idea one way or the other, but it's not obvious that he would.
posted by delmoi at 6:48 PM on May 22, 2012

Well, assuming Painter wasn't bluffing about the judge being on the phone and saying those things, I would be pretty surprised if a judge would misrepresent their authority. Certainly, it would seem to open them to the possibility of lawsuits, for instance.

I think it's more likely that the auction house simply disregarded the restraining order (probably a poor snap decision by the president upon hearing about the call) , and I'd certainly like to believe that they'll soon have a very pissed off judge jumping down their throats. However, those possibilities you give are certainly quite plausible.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2012

Pretty sure you can get a Tarbosaurus for way less than that.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:59 PM on May 22, 2012

These bones were stolen, not poached. Poachers kill and maim animals, and this is the major problem with what they do, not the incidental removal of the animal's body parts.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:24 AM on May 23, 2012

These bones were stolen, not poached. Poachers kill and maim animals, and this is the major problem with what they do, not the incidental removal of the animal's body parts.

Poaching is illegally hunting on restricted land, whether one is hunting animals or trees or fossils.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:21 AM on May 23, 2012

That's only what poaching is as applied to animals. The word applies to other things.

Deal with it.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 AM on May 23, 2012

"Fossil poaching" is a term that predates this story. Here is the NY Times using it, and a Google search turns up many more examples.
posted by brundlefly at 12:22 PM on May 23, 2012

What happened to the story that soft tissue had been preserved inside T. Rex leg bones? It's just possible that poached dinosaur might be a real thing, if someone were rich enough.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:47 PM on May 23, 2012

Because I am insane, I often read the comments sections on news articles about palaeontology. There are a lot of weird and misguided statements in the comments sections of some of the Tarbosaurus auction news articles (e.g. at CNN, USAToday, Wired). Some of these comments make me frustrated, so I figured I’d try to write down my thoughts on some of the most common recurring themes: 1) Paleontologists are just as bad as fossil poachers and/or private collectors because we hoard the dinosaurs all to ourselves and lock them away in cabinets where the public can’t see them; 2) How do we know the tyrannosaur came from Mongolia?; 3) Why does the auction company call it Tyrannosaurus bataar while palaeontologists call it Tarbosaurus?; and 4) Why is fossil poaching such a big deal, anyway? I’m going to address these over a couple of blog posts because for some reason on these topics I am unusually longwinded and the answer to the first question was getting kind of gigantic.
Thoughts on Tarbosaurus, Part 1.
posted by brundlefly at 4:45 PM on May 31, 2012

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