Sunday 28 July 2019

Permafrost thaw sparks fear of 'gold rush' for mammoth ivory

Prospectors in Russia dig up remains of extinct animals for trade worth an estimated £40m a year
Andrew Roth in Moscow
Sun 14 Jul 2019 10.43 BSTLast modified on Mon 15 Jul 2019 00.50 BST
Activists and officials in northern Russia have warned of a “gold rush” for mammoth ivory as prospectors dig up tusks and other woolly mammoth remains that can net a small fortune on the rapacious Chinese market.
Melting permafrost from global heating has made it easier for locals to retrieve the remains of woolly mammoths, which have been extinct for thousands of years, and sell them on to China, where the ivory is fashioned into jewellery, trinkets, knives, and other decorations.
Woolly mammoth ivory preserved in the permafrost in Russia’s Yakutia region make up 80% of Russia’s trade in a largely unregulated market worth as much as £40m each year, according to Russian officials.
“The process of harvesting mammoth remains needs to be regulated,” said Vladimir Prokopyev, a regional official in Yakutia who has warned about the dangers that the business poses for locals. Local officials have warned that large business interests or an outright ban on harvesting mammoth remains could disenfranchise locals, who should have the right to collect a limited amount of tusks and live off the proceeds.

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