Peru moving to protect fossils from car race

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Associated Press

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 3 at 5:35 PM

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru's government is taking steps to protect one of the world's largest fossil deposits from being damaged by this year's Dakar Rally, the Culture Ministry said Thursday.

It's the second year that the long-distance race involving hundreds of cars and motorbikes has included Peru. The race begins Saturday and will cross into Chile and Argentina before ending Jan. 20.

The Culture Ministry said it is erecting signs at all access points to the Ocucaje desert to help prevent damage to existing fossils.

Klaus Honninger, director of the private Meyer-Honninger Paleontological Museum in Peru, called the race an "enormous danger" for the Ocucaje fossil zone in the Ica region, which is home to fossils of whales, dolphins, penguins and other animals.

Honninger said spectators at last year's rally dumped tons of trash in the desert and some people reportedly used whale fossil vertebrae as benches. Some autos crushed fossils in their path.

Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne said Thursday that organizers are taking all measures possible to prevent any kind of damage to fossils or the environment in general. He said organizers would be making inspections every day on every leg of the race.

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