The Mammoth Tusk Hunters of Russia
Travel to north eastern Russia and you’ll find one of the most beautiful wildernesses anywhere in the world. It’s a place that’s inspired numerous tales of folklore and imagination, but there’s something else that the area has become famous for.
Mammoth tusks are known to be buried deep beneath the ground, and every year the region sees teams of people trying to excavate their riches by finding tusks to sell at a great profit. The teams don’t operate legally, but venture out to find treasure, setting up makeshift camps from one place to another while living off the land. As the region gains it’s reputation as a Mammoth tusk hot spot, more people are trying to venture out into the wilderness to uncover their own sources of wealth.
The discovery of a well-preserved adolescent Mammoth carcass in September 2012, by an 11-year-old boy in Russia’s Taymyr Peninsula, made international headlines and since then, many more have been unearthed.
Fifty thousand years ago, Siberia was a region covered in abundant grasslands and fertile soils, making it the perfect place for Mammoths to roam. It was their home for thousands of years, until 10,000 years ago when they left the region entirely. The few Mammoth that remained, fled to an Island called Wrangel, before disappearing completely around 3,700 years ago. This is sometimes blamed on hunters, or climate change, it’s not known for sure why they left Siberia, but what is known, is that Siberia is now a graveyard for the Mammoth.
It’s widely agreed that they diminished due to climate change, but ironically, it’s climate change that’s to blame for their remains being uncovered. The thick layers of ice below the ground are melting, making it easier to find and extract them from the earth. Scientists and archaeologists around the world are making new discoveries due to melting hitting a record pace in 2015.
Though teams of Mammoth hunters often operate illegally, the indigenous people who live in the area, are still legally allow to collect the remains., and permits are sometimes granted to reputable companies.
A Tusk weighing around 65KG can often fetch a reward of around £22,700 ($30,000), but many larger, intact tusks are fetching a lot higher prices, with some bringing in the region of $100,000, most of which, are said to end up in China. As the news of riches spreads, new explorers and teams are often seen heading along the Kolyma River, in search of their own life changing discoveries.
One of the main concerns for the region, is that the teams are often arriving with heavy industrial equipment, tearing into the unspoiled habitats and ripping into the earth, leaving a path of destruction behind.
Before the boom in the ivory trade, Tusks were often seen by locals lying around the riverbeds and partially covered by the tundra, but they were left alone as it was considered bad luck to disturb them, but given the amount of money now involved, people are going to extraordinary lengths to reclaim them.
What are your thought on the Mammoth tusk hunters of Russia, should we retrieve their tusks or leave them buried?