Mammoths have been extinct for several thousand years. The last survivors went extinct about 4,000 years ago. There were several species of these elephant relatives, all adapted to cold climates. Despite the word ‘mammoth’ meaning something huge, mammoths were about the same size as today’s African elephants, with larger tusks. They lived in cold Siberian climates.
A remarkable thing about them is that thousands have been preserved by being frozen into the Siberian tundra in the permafrost. They are not exactly fossils, but rather more like mummies kept in cold storage. A few have been so fresh when thawed that their meat is edible. And all those surviving Mammoth bodies in permafrost means a lot of Mammoth tusks, which means a lot of ivory. Mammoth ivory has been used for centuries for carving, and very old carved ivory indicates that when humans and mammoths lived in the same time and place, their ivory was used then, too.
In Medieval times, mammoth ivory was part of a lively trade in ivory that included walrus tusks and occasionally, tusks from Africa. Mammoth ivory is currently on sale on the internet, with a pair of intact tusks selling for $30,000 or so. The supply is fairly large and earns Russia several million dollars a year. The ivory is currently selling for up to $400 a pound. Ivory hunters have been known to use high pressure hoses to blast permafrost in their search for the ivory. Global climate warming is exposing more and more Mammoth remains, as the permafrost thaws.
There is also a problem. The market in mammoth ivory is legal, but the trade in elephant ivory from Africa has been banned since 1990. Elephant ivory is illegally sold as mammoth ivory. Both kinds of ivory often end in China, where it is carved into art objects (and into trinkets).
Deep knowledge,and happy reading.
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