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If the Mammoth Returns, It Will Have a Place to Live

Jurassic Park was fiction. Pleistocene Park is real.

On the rugged permafrost tundra north of Siberia in Russia, researchers are restoring the entire ecosystem to the way it existed when mammoths roamed the area 11,500 years ago. The non-profit Pleistocene Park Foundation was founded in 1989, primarily funded by government grants. Pleistocene Park covers 4,000 acres, with plans for expansion. A broad area is fenced in for the animals’ safety. In bringing back the steppe system, the area may once again guard against global warming, as the permafrost stores carbon and the grasses reflect sunlight.

Pleistocene Park in the Arctic Circle, Russia

Pleistocene Park in the Arctic Circle, Russia

The park is part of the Northeast Scientific Station, one of the world’s largest Arctic research stations. Fifty scientists study such disciplines as arctic biology, hydrology and geophysics in three laboratories.

The Pleistocene epoch began 1.8 million years ago and ended when humans dominated the earth. When mammoths roamed, a steppe system with grassland dominated the landscape. It disappeared when man intervened with more efficient hunting practices, invented agriculture and raised cattle.

Animals Roaming at Pleistocene Park

Animals Roaming at Pleistocene Park

Sergey Zimov, one of the founders of the park and director of the Northeast Science Station writes,

The vast dust-covered plains and valleys dominated the landscape. Mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, bison, horses, reindeer, musk-oxen, elk, moose, saiga, yaks grazed on grasslands under the predatory gaze of cave lions and wolves.”

Researchers are bringing back the steppe system, are planting grasses endemic to the time period, are constructing caves to bring back the permafrost and are reintroducing native animals. So far, the animals are bison, moose, reindeer, musk ox, elk, hares, marmots, ground squirrels and predators such as wolves, bears, lynxes and wolverines. Siberian tigers are to be added in the future.

A Woolly Mammoth on the Tundra

A Woolly Mammoth on the Tundra

As for mammoths, scientists at Kinki University in Japan, in partnership with scientists from Russia are working on methods to clone them back into existence.The plan is to inject Mammoth DNA (taken from frozen specimens taken from the tundra) into an elephant to create a new species that is 88% mammoth. When this is successfully undertaken, these new mammoths may be introduced into Pleistocene Park. The recreation will, thus be complete.