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"Paleontology in the spirit of cooperation"
Issue #19: Winter 2024  February 10, 2024 
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The Paleontograph


Brazil Laws pretaining to the Collection, Import, Export and Sale of Fossil Material

Synopsis; In essence, a Presidential Decree of 1942, the constitution and individual laws of Brazil, make all paleontological resources wherever found within Brazil, property of the state and subject ot the laws of the country. Decree No. 98,830 of January 30, 1990, published in the Official Gazette, Section I of March 15, 1990, regulates the collection of scientific data and materials in Brazil by foreigners, stating that it will be up to the Brazilian institution co-responsible for the scientific cooperation program, referring to the Ministry of Science and Technology, (now the Special Secretariat of Science and Technology). But nowhere in any of the decrees, does the government define collection permit procedures. It is clear however, that any fossil brought out of the country with out proper customs forms has been done so in violation of Brazil Laws.

Though vague, there have been recorded laws governing the collection of cultural items preceding the Brazil constitution of 1969 which was replaced by the 1988 constitution (with 2010 updates, english). The earliest related document was a 1942 Presidential Decree, Decreto-Lei NÂș 4.146, de 04/03/1942, DOU de 04/03/1942 (English Translation), which declares all fossils property of the state.

Articles 215 and 216 of the 1988 Constitution of Brazil are clear enough to indicate that the fossils belong to the Union and that it is the state's responsibility in protecting Brazil's natural heritage.

In addition the following bill presented to the legislature in 1996 further defines the collecting and ownership of all fossil material in Brazil. Unfortunately though introduced, it has not ben acted upon or voted into law as of October of 2014.

1996 Fossil Law, Original Text (Portuguese)    1996 Fossil Law Google English Translation

After the 1970 UNESCO Convention, which Brazil ratified on February 16, 19731, items of paleontological interest were defined as cultural objects. Members of the Convention, of which the United States became part of on February 9, 1983, agree to the Articles of the Convention, including the following sections of Article 2:

"1. The States Parties to this Convention recognize that the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property is one of the main causes of the impoverishment of the cultural heritage of the countries of origin of such property and that international co-operation constitutes one of the most efficient means of protecting each country's cultural property against all the dangers resulting therefrom."

"2. To this end, the States Parties undertake to oppose such practices with the means at their disposal, and particularly by removing their causes, putting a stop to current practices, and by helping to make the necessary reparations."

The Brazilian Society of Paleontology website,, offers addtional links to governmental decrees affecting collecting and export of paleontological resources.

1. Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Paris, 14 November 1970, UNESCO Legal Instuments visited 23 September 2014

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Last Updated: Wednesday April 17, 2024
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