Malta to ask for return of shark tooth given to Prince George

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FILE PHOTO: Sir David Attenborough sits for an interview with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde during the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and IMF in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Sir David Attenborough sits for an interview with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde during the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and IMF in Washington

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Malta wants back a prehistoric shark tooth that was given as a present to Britain's Prince George by naturalist Sir David Attenborough, saying the fossil should be put on display in the island where it was discovered.

Kensington Palace announced the gift on Saturday, saying the giant tooth was given to the seven-year-old prince when Attenborough attended a private viewing of his latest environmental documentary with members of the royal family.

Attenborough found the fossil during a family holiday to Malta in the late 1960s, the palace said. It was embedded in soft yellow limestone, and is believed to be about 23 million years old.

However, Maltese Culture Minister Jose Herrera said the tooth should be in a local museum and promised to "set the ball rolling" to get it back.

"There are some artefacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage and which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved," Herrera told the Times of Malta, without giving details of how he intended to recover the fossil.

The tooth once belonged to a megalodon, an extinct species of giant shark that could grow up to 16 metres (52 feet).

"We rightly give a lot of attention to historical and artistic artefacts. However, it is not always the case with our natural history. I am determined to direct a change in this attitude," the minister said.

Malta was a British colony until 1964.

(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Giles Elgood)