Lands are now being robbed of their ancient treasures. Dino Cops follows Rogers as he goes undercover to expose the dealers and the diggers. It's a dangerous mission. Rogers masterminds Operation Rockfish to catch the bad guys. Helicopter sweeps and dawn patrols are just some of the tactics he uses to fight this little known but growing crime.
A new war is being fought across the world. It’s a battle between scientists, law enforcers and the enemy - fossil poachers. Jurassic Park triggered off a world-wide craze for fossils and dinosaur bones. The recent sale of a sixty five million year old Tyrannosaurus for $5 million to a private collector is just one example of a problem that's sweeping the palaeontological world. Every time there is a sale, it drives up the demand. The poachers are out in force to scour the lands for potential riches. The problems are particularly acute in America and its National Parks are being plundered.
Sergeant Rogers is a Deputy Sheriff from the small town of Kemmerer in Wyoming, right in the heart of fossil country. Poachers from all over the world come to his area to hunt out the booty. But this small town cop is doing all he can to fight the bad guys and protect the fossils. Our cameras follow Rogers as Operation Rockfish gets underway. Rogers heads south to Arizona for one of the biggest fossil shows in the world - The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show - where fossils are sold for $2-12 million. Rogers reckons last year over a million dollars worth of illegal fossils turned up here. Not all fossil trading is illegal so it's a tough job to distinguish who's on the right side of the law and who's not. An 'illegal' fossil is one that's been dug up from public lands.
Posing as a wealthy buyer with no scruples Rogers infiltrates the market place to find out what's on sale and who the major players are. Filming undercover he hopes that anything incriminating will be recorded and used as evidence in court. Every step of the way he's nervous he'll be recognised and his cover will be blown. His life has been threatened many times. During the show he meets a dealer who offers him Chinese dinosaur eggs worth $20 000.
With thousands of miles to patrol and no laws to protect fossils the odds are really stacked against him but Rogers manages to make his presence felt - and that's a deterrent to the baddies. He also manages to get some convictions. He puts together a 'sting' to retrieve a 'sting ray' fossil he believes has come from State land. Like all good classics, he meets the dealer in a car park and the contraband is removed from the back of a car, Rogers brings out his badge, the baddy denies everything and the stingray is taken in as evidence.
“A fascinating report on the raging black market in dinosaur fossils” - The Guardian
Producer and Director: Jane-Marie Franklyn
Duration: 50 mins
Editor Simon Rose
Original Music: Brendan Croker
Writer and Narration: Julian Pettifer
Photography: Chris Openshaw, Scott Ransom, Steve Standen Robert Poole
On-line Editor: Rob Cooper
Production Team: Sarah Cunliffe, Colin Baird, Jenny Steadman, Kate Norbury
A Cunliffe & Franklyn Production for Channel 4 in Association with National Geographic Television