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The BIG Drive Home

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Malta backtracks over return of Prince George’s shark tooth

Written by on 29 September 2020

Malta has made a swift U-turn over its decision to seek the return of a fossilised shark tooth presented to Prince George by Sir David Attenborough.

The veteran broadcaster gave the gift to the young royal last Thursday when he visited Kensington Palace to watch his latest documentary with the Duke of Cambridge.

The 23-million-year-old fossil was discovered by Attenborough in Malta when he was holidaying on the Mediterranean island in the 1960s.

Image:
The Cambridges met Sir David Attenborough, who gave Prince George the shark’s tooth

At the weekend, he gave it to Prince George, seven, who was pictured holding the fossilised tooth from an extinct Carcharocles megalodon – one of the most feared predators to have swum in the seas.

But it raised the hackles of some in Malta, who thought the tooth should be returned to them.

Maltese culture minister Jose Herrera said on Monday he would “set the ball rolling” in retrieving the tooth to be displayed in a local museum.

However, he has since back-peddled and dropped his calls for it to be reclaimed.

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A spokesman for the ministry for national heritage, arts and local government, said: “The minister would like to note that with reference to this case, it is not the intention to pursue this matter any further.

“Minister Herrera has absolutely no doubt that young Prince George will grow to become a fond admirer of Malta’s rich natural history.”

Sir David Attenborough and Prince William ahead of Sir David's next documentary. Pic: Kensington Palace
Image:
The veteran broadcaster gave the gift to the young royal when he visited Kensington Palace to watch his latest documentary with the Duke of Cambridge

Mr Herrera’s move on Monday had raised some negative comments on social media.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in Malta three years ago, wrote on Twitter that Mr Herrera should be campaigning to tackle graft rather than “try to take a present from a child”.

If found in good condition, the teeth of a Carcharocles megalodon are highly-valued by fossil collectors.

This is especially true of teeth larger than five inches – a highly uncommon find – which can be sold for several thousand dollars.