Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Every Cloud Has...

...if not silver, an ivory lining to Global Warming:
NOVY URENGOI, Russia: .... The ivory in this part of the world comes from the remains of extinct woolly mammoths, as they emerge from the tundra where they have been frozen for thousands of years. It is a traditional Russian business that had all but gone extinct itself during the Soviet period but is flourishing now.

....The trade, bolstered recently by global warming, which has melted the tundra and exposed more frozen remains, is not only legal but actually endorsed by conservationists. They note somewhat grudgingly that while the survival of elephants may be in question, it is already too late for mammoths. Mammoth ivory from Siberia, they say, meets some of the Asian demand for illegal elephant ivory and its trade should be encouraged.

....Woolly mammoths are the last of three extinct elephantine species that inhabited Siberia. They appeared about 400,000 years ago and lasted at least until 3,600 years ago - the age of some mammoth remains found on an island off the northern coast of the Russian region of Chukotka in 1993.

The tusks emerge with the spring thaw or after heavy rains, or along the eroding banks of rivers. A boom in gas and oil investment has added another source, as crews dig wells and dig ditches for pipelines. Fresh from the permafrost, mammoth ivory is nearly pristine, though with a characteristic green patina. But if left outside and exposed to the elements, it will disintegrate within three years into worthless splinters.

That is another point in favor of the mammoth ivory trade, said [Aleksei Tikhonov, director of the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg], the Russian mammoth expert. It encourages the gathering of tusks that would otherwise be lost. In fact, he said, vastly more mammoth ivory is destroyed in this natural cycle in Russia than is ever found and sold, perhaps hundreds of tons a year.

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