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Demand for ivory fueled the “mammoth rush” in the Siberian wilderness

An illustration of a family of Woolly Mammoths grazing on what is left of the grasses as the winter is approaching in this ice age scene.
(Credit: iStock)

The demand for ivory has led to a “mammoth rush” in Siberia thanks to the discovery of the preserved tusks and the increase of a ban on the international trade in elephant ivory.

Over the past few years, ivory dealers are rushing to a remote Northern part of Siberia called Yakutia, which is five times larger than France, to bypass the prohibition on the sale of elephant ivory by the sale of the tusks of their extinct ancestors, the AFP reported.

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The discovery of giant tusks, not only opened new opportunities for the people in Siberia, but also can help to save the life of elephants in Africa who often suffer at the hands of poachers looking for ivory.

“Our dead bones are the storage of living elephants,” local resident Prokopy Nogovitsyn told the news agency. “They can gather is important, both for us and for Africa.”

“Our dead bones are the storage of living elephants. They can gather is important, both for us and for Africa.”

— local resident Prokopy Nogovitsyn

Yukutia is blessed by mammoth bones, thanks to the area that is covered by the permafrost, which effectively froze the remains of mammoths from thousands of years ago. The authorities claim that 500,000 tonnes of mammoth tusks are buried in Yakutia, the AFP reported.

Many dealers are traveling to Siberia to obtain ivory, after China, a ban on the import and sale of elephant ivory. According to trade statistics, Russia exported 72 tons, with 80 percent of it going to China.

The area was long known for its enormous tusks, with local residents picking up the bones along the river and sea shores for decades.

But the latest so-called “mammoth rush” has to do with skyrocketing prices of ivory – the make of the duration of the exploration in the Siberian wilderness to be cost-effective, with a kilogram of mammoth ivory are sold in China for $1,000, or $455 per pound, according to the AFP.

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Despite the profit, the new industry is faced with problems if the exploration is difficult because of the environment, where almost no roads exist, and the lack of regulation.

“Ordinary people should know that they will pick something up from the ground, selling, paying a tax, and to live in peace,” one collector told the publication.

“Ordinary people should know that they will pick something up from the ground, selling, paying a tax, and live in peace.”

— Mammoth ivory collector

Last year, according to AFP, some collectors protested in the region amid accusations that the authorities confiscated their accumulated ivory, even though they had a permit.

“Back the tusks back to the people!” signs at the protest reportedly read.

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But the new-found source of ivory has also led to a number of negative consequences, with some experts accusing collectors of damage to sensitive areas and just an increase of the demand for ivory.

Still Valery Plotnikov, a paleontologist at the Yakutia Academy of Sciences, dismissed this criticism, telling the outlet that the collectors actually help the scientific purpose by providing samples that the experts would otherwise have to pay.

“We have a symbiosis with authorised collectors,” he said, noting that collectors often give the researchers the items they find, that they would make a profit if the findings were to be exhibited.

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