Even prehistoric beasts can't escape the wrath of climate change.
As climate change threatens to throw the world into chaos, a moral quandary has surfaced in Russia. Thanks to increasing temperatures, the permafrost in the country’s Yakutia region has begun melting away, revealing a wealth of prehistoric treasure, including woolly mammoth tusks, which Russian officials claim is being sold to China as ivory.
Known as ice ivory, locals in the Far Eastern federal district are selling as much as they can onto the Asian market, which has waned after China banned elephant ivory last year.
According to scientists, 80% of the world’s known mammoth graves and remains are in Yakutia. In the vast territory on the Arctic Ocean, the vanishing ice is revealing a layer of historical artifacts not seen for thousands of years. Alongside bones of the ancient relative of the elephant, man-made tools have also emerged, causing a herd of scientists, archaeologists and tourists to descend on the area.
Though it is illegal to use powerful pumps to unearth the prehistoric remains, there are no laws governing the sale of ice ivory. It’s left many confused as to whether this new practice can be classified as poaching. Yes, the woolly mammoth has been extinct for 10,000 years, but it’s fueling the same industry. If left unchecked, poachers could easily masquerade their illegal and unethical imports as those from the Yakutia mammoth.
Ivory bans across the world have seen poachers take up new tactics in order to cream off profits from the multi-million dollar industry. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, hippo teeth are quickly becoming a cause of concern as markets in Asia and Europe shy away from illegal elephant ivory trade and harvest the incisors of the Sub Saharan mammal. Only a few countries ban the import of hippo ivory, but as more crack down on illegal elephant poaching, we should turn our attention to animals who’ve been dead for thousands of years as a way of protecting those alive today.