Woolly Mammoth: First Protected Extinct Species?

Conservationists propose outlawing mammoth tusk trade to combat endangered elephant poaching.


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Conservationists want to declare woolly mammoths, which went extinct approximately 4,000 years ago, a protected species under conservation trade rules as a way to protect threatened wild elephants from being poached for their tusks. If enacted, the measure will make woolly mammoths the first extinct species to be afforded legal protection under conservation trade regulations. Russia already exports as much as 100 tons of mammoth ivory per year, and paleontologists estimate that the remains of up to 150 million woolly mammoths still lie beneath the icy Siberian tundra. As climate change raises global temperatures, the permafrost is melting, making tusk harvesting easy. Smugglers use the legal mammoth tusk trade to illegally sell tusks poached from wild African and Asian elephants by claiming they are from woolly mammoths. Ironically, woolly mammoths are close evolutionary relatives of modern elephants and went extinct due to warming global temperatures as the Ice Age ended. Conservationists will present the mammoth protection proposal at next month’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), an annual meeting that sets standards between countries designed to protect animals and plants from extinction.

Photo courtesy of Science Picture Co. | Getty Images