The captive mammoth

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The captive mammoth

The carcass of a young mammoth was found frozen and preserved in permafrost, in the northwest part of Russia’s Siberia in May of last year. Kicked by a ranch hand’s boots, the mammoth finally revealed itself to the world after being concealed beneath a wall of ice for 10,000 years. The 6-month-old female mammoth is the most well-preserved example yet found of the beasts. It looked as if it were still alive.
Experts in Russia and Japan have great expectations that if they attempt to inject cells from the carcass into an elephant’s ova, they might be able to succeed in cloning the mammoth species. If their dream comes true, dinosaur cloning as seen in the movie “Jurassic Park,” a 1993 science-fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg, will be a reality in the near future.
Mammoths are regarded as a symbol of enormity. Fossils of huge mammoths that had towered as high as five meters (16 feet) from ground to shoulder and weighed 12 tons when they were alive have been found occasionally.
The mammoths first appeared in Africa approximately 1.6 million years ago and thrived 50,000 years ago, at the end of the diluvial epoch. The species lived in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America until 10,000 years ago. Some of them survived until 3,600 years ago. However, they ended up extinct.
Recent sample analyses by Spanish scientists regarding climate, different mammoth species and populations, showed that the number of mammoths saw a rapid decline due to climate change beginning 8,000 to 6,000 years ago. In the long run, the study indicated, the ultimate killer of the mammoths was found to be hunting by humans.
However, mammoths are still caught in the fatal ties that bound them to humankind and led to their demise.
As the permafrost melts away at a swift pace because of global warming, the search for mammoth fossils is all the rage at the moment. In addition to professional hunters searching for mammoth ivory, reindeer hunters and laborers in oil and gas fields have jumped on the bandwagon. Mammoth fossils have emerged as a major Russian export and are sold everywhere. Mammoth ivory exports, which remained at no more than two tons per annum since 1989, reached more than 40 tons last year. A mammoth-head fossil with well-preserved three-meter-long tusks is worth roughly $20,000, and a perfectly restored mammoth fossil is quoted at between $150,000 to $250,000 or higher.
I am wondering if the spirits of mammoths whose fossils are being sold worldwide and exhibited in museums feel bitter about people’s heartlessness.

*The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo reporter who specializes in environmental issues.

By Kang Chan-soo[envirepo@joongang.co.kr]
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