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As Artic Ice melts, it has become a free-for-all gold rush – for mammoth tusks!

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A large mammoth tusk found in the Tundra

As the melting of the world’s icecaps accelerates, more and more land, which has been encased in ice for centuries, is slowly revealing hidden treasures.  As the ice disappears, mammoth tusks are appearing all over the landscape and that means big business for some.  In Siberia, the now-exposed tusks are bringing in tusk hunters and ivory poachers from all over the world.

National Geographic noted;

“The shaggy giants that roamed northern Siberia during the late Pleistocene epoch died off about 10,000 years ago, though isolated populations lingered on islands to the north and east, the last dying out some 3,700 years ago. The mammoths’ tusks, which could spiral to more than 13 feet, are reemerging from the permafrost.”

Photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva, a native of Siberia who remembers seeing rotting tusks along the local river banks as a child, told National Geographic:

“After the international ban of elephant ivory trade in 1991, mammoth tusk became sort of a substitute for elephant ivory.  So I would say from 1991, people really started to see it as a business.  Tusk hunters can go a whole summer and find only a couple hundred pounds worth of tusk, but those tusks are so valuable…”

Scientists believe there are millions of tusks located in the tundra.  After they are found, 90% of them end up in China where they are often turned into mammoth trinkets.  Bigger tusks, which can be carved by “master carvers” can fetch upwards of $1.5 million apiece.

National Geographic Magazine is running a “Mammoth Tusk Hunters” article in this month’s issue.  Check it out.

Sources: National Geographic