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Jurassic sites on Skye, containing rare evidence of how dinosaurs and early mammals lived many millions of years ago, have been granted greater vital legal status to help ensure their protection.
Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, yesterday (Thursday August 1) signed a Nature Conservation Order (NCO) at Staffin Museum, home of dinosaur bones and footprints found nearby.
Known as the Dinosaur capital of Scotland, the rich Middle Jurassic fossil fauna of Skye is gradually being revealed with new discoveries continuing to be made after remains of dinosaurs on the island were first identified in 1984.
These include some of the first fossil evidence of dinosaur parenting. Housed at Staffin Museum, a rock slab shows the footprints of baby dinosaurs, together with the print of an adult.
The key aim of the NCO is to prevent rare vertebrate fossils from being damaged through irresponsible collection and removal from Skye’s globally important fossil sites. Importantly, the NCO also aims to encourage people report any potentially important fossil finds.
In the past, important fossil discoveries have been damaged by hammering, with specimens taken from the island and moved to private collections. In 2016 an attempt to take a plaster cast of a dinosaur footprint at An Corran risked significant damage to a feature that has become an important tourist attraction.
It is expected that Skye is also home to fossil remains of flying reptiles, and confirmation of this will firmly place the island in the international dinosaur hall of fame.
‘Skye lays claim to the most significant dinosaur discoveries of Scotland’s Jurassic past and this Nature Conservation Order is a vital step in protecting and preserving this important part of our natural heritage for future generations,’ said Ms Gougeon.
‘The Order gives extra legal protection to these special sites whilst providing for important artefacts to be collected responsibly for science and public exhibition, as Dugald Ross of the Staffin Museum has been doing since his first important discovery in 1982.’
Staffin Museum owner Dugald Ross said he is encouraging everyone to ‘find, report and help protect – but not collect’ Skye’s wonderful dinosaur heritage.
‘Everyone has a role to play in making the Order a success, and we are encouraging local people who think they may have found a vertebrate fossil – or a dinosaur bone or tooth – to contact Staffin Museum for advice,’ he said.
A Dinosaur footprint at An Corran on Skye. Photo: C MacFadyen SNH. NO F32 Skye dinosaurs 01
Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, inspects some Dinosaur fossils with Staffin Museum’s Dugald Ross (left) and SNH operations officer, Alex Turner. Photo: SNH. F32 Skye dinosaurs 02