Australia on Friday handed over to the Chinese government 10,000 fossils that had been illegally exported from China, including dinosaur eggs, ancient turtles and a saber-toothed cat, the Australian environment minister said.
Australian officials seized the fossils after receiving an official request from Beijing in 2003, Environment and Heritage Minister Ian Campbell said in a statement.
A joint operation between Australian police and customs netted an "extraordinary" range of pieces, including early elephant and rhinoceros bones and rare fossils of fish and reptiles, Campbell said.
Some of the fossils date back 230 million years and have a total value of up to 5 million Australian dollars (US$3.8 million; 3.15 million). The minister formally handed the fossils over to China's Ambassador in Australia, Fu Ying, at a ceremony held at the Chinese consulate in the Western Australia state capital, Perth. I.L.