"Threat" to types (or institutions?)

Doug Yanega dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU
Tue Jul 11 10:44:01 CDT 1995


>From: Peter Rauch <peterr at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU>
>And, finally, let's remember the roots of this thread --the UNIDROIT
>proposition that _illegally_ collected and/or _illegally_ exported
>specimens are subject to repatriation. That says nothing about legally
>held materials. All the issues about access, expenses to visit collections,
>etc, would still exist for those specimens even after any UNIDROIT
>treaty were ratified.

Correct me then, if I'm wrong - this would mean that, like the Lacey Act,
virtually any specimens for which permits and other such paperwork does not
exist are considered "illegal", and subject to repatriation. Without a
"grandfather" clause, wouldn't this legitimately threaten to devastate
entire museums, and not just their type collections? I doubt there is a
museum in the world with enough staff and funds to sort through every
specimen, pull out the "illegal" ones, and ship them back to their native
land. They'd go bankrupt in no time, and be unable to conduct any research
while the staff were diverted to the task (admittedly a worst-case
scenario). The point is, I can't help but wonder if this whole process
requires, specifically, that there is an institution requesting *known*
"illegal" material to be returned. In other words, if there is a pile of
Brazilian insects in the Humboldt Museum, that someone from a Brazilian
museum couldn't just declare "We hereby demand the return of all Brazilian
Insecta unaccompanied by permits", but rather would have to list the
*exact* specimens in the Humboldt to be returned.
        If such generic requests DID have to be honored, the worst-case
scenario above could well come true (imagine having to sort through a
collection of several million insects to find every one from country X).
The other issue no one has mentioned, is WHO, exactly, gets the repatriated
material, when there is more than one museum in a country? Whoever *asks*
first? Could the University of Georgia, for instance, request every
specimen from the state of Georgia in the British Museum? The conceivable
complications seem almost endless, but Peter's latest posting implies that
UNIDROIT is now essentially a fait accompli, and all that remains is for
each country to sign the treaty or not. It is not so much the principle
that troubles me, it's the practical reality (which is far worse for
entomological collections than virtually anything else, and thus personally
very worrisome).

Doug Yanega      Illinois Natural History Survey, 607 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA     phone (217) 244-6817, fax (217) 333-4949
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82




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