Codes of ethics and fossil hunting

Skeleton of the Giant Moa by Gresham. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A number of workers in New Zealand have been becoming concerned at rash of moa bones for sale via online auctions. One, at least, is being provided with a map to its location. This is obviously of concern ethically, although a technicality in the legislation allows it.

Although some inroads into the ethics of fossil hunting are alluded to (see reference here), little information is currently available. As a result, even to those interested in adhering to accepted best practice may have difficulty accessing it. In the United States, the Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences (AAPS) has posted a code (here), which proscribes standards of behaviour for the collectors, though not specifically any protection to material itself.

While international legislation on the sale of fossils and sub-fossils varies, ICOM NATHIST considers that this material should be afforded the same protection under CITES as material from extant species. This is one of many issues that is covered in ICOM’s Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums.

After a number of drafts and rounds of comments, it is almost ready for ratification by the ICOM Ethics Committee and formal adoption. It is hoped that the the Code will provide backing for improvements on many fronts, of which fossil collecting is only one example.

Tarbosaurus from the Muenster Museum. Are fossil specimens afforded sufficient protection under international legislation? Source: Wikimedia Commons

This blog has been conceived as a forum for those wishing to share best practice and ethics of natural history, or present challenging situations for discussion. If you know of issues that should be brought to our attention in this context, please feel post them to us on this blog or make contact directly.

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3 thoughts on “Codes of ethics and fossil hunting

  1. Pingback: More on Moa | ICOM NATHIST Ethics Working Group

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