Nicolas Cage is a reptile enthusiast.
A Tyrannosaurus Bataar skull purchased for $230,000 in 2007 by actor Nicolas Cage is being returned to Mongolia because the fossil was removed from the country illegally, unbeknownst to Cage.
The Bataar skull was removed unlawfully from the Gobi Desert and was shipped into the United States in June 2006 via Japan, mislabeled as “fossil stone pieces.” It was described by California-based auction house I. M. Chait Gallery/ Auctioneers as native to the Eurasian continent and was sold by the auction house on 5th Avenue in Manhattan to a California buyer for $230,000.
The Bataar Skull as Described on the Chait.com Auction house website:
AN EXTREMELY RARE TYRANNOSAURID SKULL
Tyrannosaurus Bataar Late Cretaceous (67 million years) Nemegt Formation, Central Asia Tyrannosaurus bataar is the closest dinosaur relative to the North American King of Dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex -though it thrived on the Eurasian Continent approximately 2 million years earlier. Many similarities exist between the two Tyrannosaurus' species though Tyrannosaurus bataar was slightly smaller with shorter arms and a few minor differences in the skull. The present specimen is quite large for the species measuring 32 inches in length and has been professional prepared in three-dimension with all of its natural matrix removed. It is approximately 65% complete with most of the restoration being on the back of the skull and the right mandible (lower jaw). The battery of huge, knife-like, serrated teeth are quite impressive and are in excellent condition, though some on the lower right jaw have been replaced. Overall, this remarkable specimen is scientifically accurate and important to our understanding of how tyrannosaurids lived.
On September 21, 2015, The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”), Homeland Security Investigations performed an examination on the skull and determined that it belongs to the Mongolian Government. The removal of dinosaur fossils from the country of Mongolia without permission from the Mongolian government is against Mongolian law. These laws have been on the books in the country since 1924.
Upon learning of the investigation, Cage returned the skull to Homeland Security Investigations, and has fully cooperated with authorities.
Cage is no stranger to reptiles, having been forced to give up his two cobras in 2008 after neighbors complained. In 2009, Cage donated his two-headed gopher snake to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. He also donated (due to a busy schedule) his Asian water monitor to the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, IL., where officials there said the large lizard, now named Grug, after Cage's character in The Croods, was dearly loved by Cage and very friendly when it came into the center. He was also rumored to have studied the movements of the cobras for his role in the Ghost Rider movies.