Barry Keevins and Stuart Winter, — Sunday Express
December 9, 2012
Mammoth Ivory Treasure Haul By Barry Keevins and Stuart Winter, Sunday Express December 9, 2012
IVORY hunters are travelling to Siberia in a search for tusks from long-extinct woolly mammoths.
The boom in the trade is proving lucrative, with ivory unearthed from the mud of riverbanks fetching around £20 a pound.
More than 60 tons of ivory are exported each year from Russia mainly to Hong Kong where it is sculpted into intricate charms.
The trade in mammoth ivory is not illegal but its appearance on the open market concerns conservation organisations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare. They fear that unscrupulous dealers may try to pass off outlawed elephant ivory as its legal mammoth counterpart to overcome strict international laws.
Robbie Marsland, IFAW’s UK director said: “Our line on mammoth ivory has always been that anything that look likes ivory only promotes the illegal trade.”
In earlier times, mammoth ivory hunters were concentrated in the northern part of European Russia, but over the centuries the area where it can be found easily has gradually moved north and east, following the Arctic Circle.
Today, the last profitable areas are being searched in the Far East, on certain islands of New Siberia in the Laptev Sea where huge quantities of tusks are still being found.
The density of ivory in Siberia will be too low for the work to be profitable within 10 years, says Eugeny Maschenko, researcher at Moscow’s Palaeontological Institute.
He added: “Today, you need to pass the Arctic Circle to find high enough density of tusks. Logistics for such expeditions is quite a big job. It costs a lot for petrol and the appropriate period is very short.”
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