Hands off our valuable fossils! Portugal’s paleontology “up for grabs”

They may be hundreds of millions of years old, but that doesn’t mean Portugal shouldn’t keep them! Pressure is on for the country to introduce laws to protect Portugal’s valuable fossils.

Algarve-based paleontologist Mário Miguel Mendes claims scientists and researchers from all over the world have recognised Portugal’s ‘bounty’ when it comes to vestiges that show how plants and animals developed; providing all sorts of insight into climate ‘changes’ over the millennia.

But thanks to a complete absence of laws protecting them they are all being “lost” – to France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden… even Japan.

Sol online explains that efforts in the past to win protection for Portugal’s undervalued fossils have all fizzled out.

“In the government of António Guterres, the minister of Science and Technology José Mariano Gago tried to do something”, creating a working group which registered “innumerous recommendations”.

But then Guterres’ resigned with his famous remark about not wanting the country to fall into a political swamp, and “nothing got done”.

Then Durão Barroso’s executive came in, and there was renewed hope before then he too disappeared (to the European Commission) and fossils were once again left to gather dust on the shelf.

“Elsewhere, there are countries that value their heritage”, explained Mendes – citing Brazil, which saw its rarest fossils extracted at an alarming rate from the Araripe basin, before it took action.

Now, on top of the laws prohibiting fossil exports and commercialisation, Brazil’s federal police “have developed important work to combat fossil trafficking”, he said, while here, it’s still pretty much the Wild West.

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