This treasure hunter in Russia has unearthed the tusk of a woolly mammoth, a shaggy ancestor of modern-day elephants that lived during the Ice Age. Like elephant tusks, mammoth tusks are made of ivory, which is extremely valuable. A mammoth tusk can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. The biggest market is China, where ivory carvings are a traditional status symbol.
Now, climate change is making it easier to find ancient mammoth tusks—and creating a kind of gold rush in Siberia, a huge, very cold region that’s mostly in Russia.
Why there? As Earth warms, permafrost (permanently frozen ground) in the Arctic region is thawing. That’s causing problems, from toppled buildings to extreme flooding. In Siberia, it’s also revealing the remains of mammoths that had been preserved in the frozen soil.
Some experts say this could help African elephants, which are often illegally killed for their tusks. Mammoth ivory has been helping fill the demand for elephant ivory in China. But others say ivory dealers could label illegal elephant ivory as mammoth ivory so it seems OK to buy.