Stolen fossilised dinosaur footprints, 200 million years old and from a protected site, have been found after being advertised on eBay. The three-toed prints, from coastline near Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, had been offered for sale online and in a shop at Lyme Regis in Dorset.
The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) realised they could have come only from the Bendrick Rock site.
A man described as a local amateur geologist has been cautioned by police.
The police had worked alongside the CCW and the fossils were recovered after a raid on the shop in Lyme Regis. Dr Bill Wimbledon, a senior geologist for the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) said they began to investigate after they were tipped off that fossils were being advertised for sale.
"They were described as being the right age and with a bit of detective work we looked and worked out they could only have come from here," he said.
"Bendrick Rock is one of Britain's most important areas for fossil footprints. The damage to the site is obvious - a large area of rock has been quarried away, continuous track ways broken up and individual prints cut up and taken away for sale. It's very sad. They took away the positives and left us with the negatives. We are very pleased to have tracked them down and reclaimed them, and they will now go to a safe home in a museum. Most people understand the great importance of SSSIs (sites of special scientific interest) and respect this, but there is a minority - a few rogue and commercial collectors and dealers - who want only to exploit sites. We will continue to be vigilant to protect what is international geological heritage, so that we can ensure Wales remains one of the best open-air museums in the world, accessible to all," he added.
Sgt Ian Guildford of South Wales Police said a man from the Cardiff area, whom he described as a local amateur geologist, had been cautioned for criminal damage and theft from a protected site.
Fossils can be legally collected and sold - but not if they are from protected or restricted sites.
Sgt Guildford said the dealers involved in this case had claimed they had received the fossils from legal sources.