Morons have mindlessly vandalized a 115-million-year-old dinosaur footprint in a national park in Australia. Yep, this is why we can't have nice things.
The three-toed footprint, measuring 30 centimeters (12 inches) across, was discovered at the Dinosaur Dreaming site in the Bunurong Marine Park, Victoria, in 2006. It was left on display, rather than removed and put in Melbourne Museum, so visitors could enjoy it in its original stomping ground.
"The significance of the footprint is that it represents a moment frozen in time when a meat-eating dinosaur stood on that spot and left an impression of its foot," Parks Victoria said in a statement.
Unfortunately, at some point last week, vandals damaged the prehistoric artifact in what looks like an attempt to chip off one of its toes as a souvenir or to sell.
“It leaves a sour taste in the mouth that anyone would deliberately destroy something that has brought pleasure to so many people over the years,” Lesley Kool of the Dinosaur Dreaming site said in the statement.
“It is sad to think a person or persons who knew the location of the footprint would deliberately damage an important local icon that is recognized as being of international scientific significance,“ added Brian Martin, team leader of the Parks Victoria rangers.
“The rock there is reasonably hard so it looks like it's been hit with a hammer and pieces of the rock around the edge of the footprint have been broken away,” Martin told Australia’s ABC News.
Paleontologists are actually unsure what species the footprint belongs to although they believe it was perhaps a bipedal meat-eater, such as a Megalosaurus (image below). Researchers have found the remains of six different types of carnivorous dinosaur around the Dinosaur Dreaming site – the longest running dinosaur dig site in Australia – along with over 6,000 bones and teeth from other dinosaurs, mammals, and fish.
However, all is not lost for this impressive footprint. When it was first unearthed in 2006, scientists from Museum Victoria and Monash University created a silicone rubber mold of the print. Rangers have also managed to find some of the chipped-off pieces. Together, there's still a chance they might be able to restore the display.
“Fortunately, I was able to retrieve some of the broken pieces of the footprint and hopefully the technicians at Museum Victoria may be able to restore the footprint to some degree,” said Mike Cleeland, an education officer at the Bunurong Environment Centre.
In the meantime, authorities have appealed to the public for any information that could help catch the crooks responsible.