Ice Ivory to White Gold: Links Between the Illegal Ivory Trade and the Trade in Geocultural Artifacts

Oct 16, 2023 | Studies

By Caroline Cox and Luke Hauser – Taylor & Francis Online


The United Kingdom, with the introduction of the Ivory Act 2018, is at the forefront of elephant protection, and it is hoped that governmental commitments, made in the 25 Year Environment Plan, will see increased protection for other species at risk due to the illegal wildlife trade. However, one species that currently falls outside of the regulation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) can be directly linked to the ivory trade: the mammoth. The woolly mammoth became extinct more than 10,000 years ago, but the genus Mammuthus, since its appearance in Africa c.5 ma, was one of the most successful megafaunal groups, radiating into 10 species and found across the Northern Hemisphere from Siberia to Crete. As the world warms and the permafrost melts, mammoth tusks are being uncovered across the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in Siberia’s Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). There are close similarities between the tusks of elephants and mammoths, leading conservationists to fear that the increase in “ice ivory” heralds a new threat to elephants and our wider understanding of the “woolly” mammoth and its world.

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