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New features at Eromanga dinosaur museum to attract paleo tourists

23 March 2022

New features at the Eromanga Natural History Museum are set to attract more paleo tourists to the small outback community of 110 people, 12-hours’ drive west of Brisbane.

In 2020 the Queensland Government provided $2 million to the museum through its Growing Tourism Infrastructure (GTI) Fund to build viewing galleries with glazed viewing that looks on to dinosaur fossil preparation, research and storage facilities.

The new facilities will provide visitors with the rare opportunity to see real bones from Queensland dinosaurs and how they are painstakingly prepared for study and eventually display in the museum itself.

The new galleries are expected to attract about an additional 2000 visitors a year and around $1 million in overnight visitor spend – helping to diversify the local economy, which is predominantly agricultural and which has endured many years of drought.

Eromanga first shot to fame in 2004 when then 14-year-old Sandy Mackenzie spotted an ‘unusual rock’ while mustering cattle on the family property.

That unusual rock led to the discovery of gigantic fossils belonging a group of giant dinosaurs called titanosaurs that lived between 93 and 96 million years old.

The dinosaur bones are from rocks found in the Winton Formation – a geological layer 102-98 million years old.

The Eromanga titanosaurs were long-necked sauropods – plant-eating dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous period.
Their discovery represented a new species and genus of dinosaur for Australia.

The new facilities will complement a new entry pavilion, lobby and café at the museum, which opened 12 months ago.

They will also provide the supporting infrastructure to showcase Australia’s largest dinosaur – Cooper – when a new gallery to house a replica is built.

The Queensland Government has provided $834,000 to the museum through the Outback Tourism Infrastructure Fund to construct a 3D printed skeleton of Cooper.

Cooper’ - Australotitan cooperensis– was 6.5 metres tall, 30 metres in length and weighed about 65 tonnes.

That’s longer than a basketball court and taller than a two-story house.

‘Cooper’ was first uncovered by Sandy’s mum and dad, Robyn and current Quilpie Shire Council Mayor Stuart Mackenzie, on their property near Cooper Creek in the Eromanga Basin in 2006.

After 15 years of painstaking excavation, the Eromanga Natural History Museum last year officially identified the skeleton as the largest dinosaur ever found in Australia.

The new facilities will play an important role in Queensland’s post-COVID economic recovery, especially with the state’s borders fully reopened to national and international travellers, placing the Eromanga Museum along with Winton’s Age of Dinosaurs and the Muttaburrasaurus Interpretation Centre in Muttaburra as a must-see.

The climate and conditions of Outback Queensland contributed to fossil formation, resulting in the region being a rich source of marine, dinosaur and megafauna fossils – from Mt Isa in the North to Eromanga in the south-west.

The fossil record is varied and covers many eras. It includes the Eromanga dinosaurs, the Eulo megafauna, as well as skeletons of sauropods, pliosaurs, pterosaurs, shark teeth and a variety of shellfish given that Outback Queensland was once part of an ancient inland sea.

Paleo-tourism is an important part of Queensland’s tourism sector. Outback Queensland is one of the best places in the world to have a dinosaur experience, with some of Australia’s significant dinosaur discoveries made in recent years.

In 2021, the Queensland Government committed $500,000 over three years to deliver a ‘roadmap’ to grow the Australian Dinosaur Trail with the intent of attracting national and international paleo-enthusiasts to visit the outback towns of Eromanga, Winton, Muttaburra, Hughenden and Richmond.

Dinosaur attractions account for about 11 per cent of all Queensland tourism and 26 per cent of leisure tourism.