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Fossil Collecting Code
29 September 05
The Scottish Fossil Code will inform the public about Scotland’s fascinating fossil heritage and about the importance and fun of fossil collecting, but crucially it will also encourage responsible collecting.” Stuart Brooks, Head of Conservation at Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Scotland has a fascinating geological heritage, a structure that essentially shapes our natural landscape. Yet, as we have found on certain reserves, a minority of visitors have exploited the fossils, rocks and even natural landmarks found by damaging or removing parts of them. The development of a new code can only help to raise awareness of all our responsibilities in safeguarding this rich resource for the future.”
Petershill Wildlife Reserve is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest as it provides evidence of the shallow tropical seas that covered the area around 330 million years ago, including numerous giant oyster–like shells and beds of colonial coral similar to those found in the Bahamas today. Despite SSSI protection, large areas of the fossilised sea floor at the site have been removed by people using sledgehammers and crowbars. Part of the problem of illegal fossil collection is that many of the sites are in remote locations, and so often the thefts are only detected after the collectors have gone. In addition, many landowners are unaware of the scientific value of the fossils on their land or do not regard irresponsible collecting as a problem. As a result few people report the crimes to the police. The Birk Knowes Site of Special Scientific Interest in Lanarkshire is an example of a remote and important fossil site, that has almost been totally ‘worked out’ as a result of a German fossil collector, who had no permit to excavate and remove the very rare and valuable fossils. Despite negotiations between SNH with the Humboldt museum in Germany, which now holds the specimens, no acknowledgement has been made that the rarest specimens acquired from the site were collected irresponsibly, and no agreement has been made to return the fossils. The fossil code will be launched at Petershill Wildlife Reserve, near Bathgate at 11AM, THURSDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER.