China nabs smugglers who mailed fossils abroad
Three Chinese who tried to smuggle fossils abroad by sending them through express mail have been arrested, the Xinhua news agency said on Friday.The men mailed 158 fossils to overseas buyers labelled as "stone carving molds" or "plaster art."They were captured after customs officials at the Hangzhou airport, in eastern China, noticed eight bone-like articles in a parcel labelled "artefacts" and going to Turkey.The "artefacts" turned out to be fossil fragments of Cenozoic Era mammals dating back 50 million years, Xinhua said, citing Jiang Min, an official with the anti-smuggling bureau of Hangzhou customs.China forbids the export of fossils, but fossil smuggling has been on the rise. Three smuggling cases, each involving more than 2,000 fossils, were unearthed between 2002 and 2004.Fossils have also become a popular gift for bribing officials.One apprehended seller, surnamed Cui, said there was "quick money" to be made by smuggling fossils. A translator would post the information online after Cui purchased the fossils, then negotiate with foreign buyers, mostly in the United States, Britain and Turkey.Earlier this week, Chinese researchers announced the discovery of the fossil of a gigantic, feathered but flightless dinosaur that has been classed as a new species.