- News Home
5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
China Gets Its Bones in Order
20 September 2002 (All day)
BEIJING--China has adopted new regulations on access to fossils that assign enforcement to a single administrative body. Most scientists see the new rules as a positive step toward bringing greater order to the current patchwork system, which did little to deter illegal digging and trafficking of fossils. But a few researchers are worried that putting a single entity in charge could result in additional barriers to research.
In the past, valuable fossils were protected by China's Law on the Preservation of Cultural Relics. But the law failed to specify which organization would issue permits, guard against looters, and help customs officials crack down on smuggling. Looters and smugglers took advantage of the lax enforcement, and scientists were left to work out their own arrangements with local officials.
Now, the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) will take full responsibility for enforcement. The new regulations, which go into effect 1 October, define in general terms what kinds of fossils are protected. A forthcoming list will include so-called type specimens that have been named and categorized, rare vertebrates, fossils that illustrate key features of evolution, and those from large sites. Jiang Jianjun, director of the Department of Geological Environment within the MLR, which issued the regulations last month, predicts that uniform rules will help the government enforce environmentally sound excavation practices and improve access to the sites.
However, some scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) are concerned that the new rules could cause them to be treated like second-class citizens because their institutions aren't associated with the MLR. "I feel uncomfortable with the thought that [the Ministry of] Land and Resources will monopolize the inspection of fossil excavation," says Jin Yugan, a paleontologist at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology under CAS.
Most scientists in China are optimistic. "I think this is a small step in the right direction," agrees Zhou Zhonghe, a paleontologist at the Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. "But many of the rules need to be more specific. Most important, I am waiting to see concrete evidence of a firm commitment to enforcement." Jiang hopes that the regulations will eventually be submitted for approval by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and provide the basis for a new law on fossil protection.
With reporting by Erik Stokstad.