- Scientists have located a frozen "zoo" of prehistoric
creatures under the Siberian permafrost which they intend to retrieve for
a cloning experiment.
- Members of an expedition which last autumn airlifted
a mammoth from its icy tomb now claim to have evidence of an extraordinary
menagerie of extinct creatures.
- Bernard Buigues, the French leader of the expedition,
said he knew of another 18 locations which would yield the animals' bodies
in a well-preserved state.
- He is to begin the search for woolly rhino, steppe lions,
giant deer, foxes and hardy breeds of horses from 20,000 BC within the
next month. He will cover an area extending 300 miles to the northwest
and northeast of the Siberian town of Khatanga, 500 miles north of the
- "Evidence from bones and tusks collected by nomads
has alerted us to the location of the sites," said Buigues. He has
travelled extensively in the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia in the past 10
years, and believes he may also have found signs of human settlement from
2,000BC on the shores of Lake Taymyr.
- Competition among rival teams of scientists has prompted
veiled accusations of underhand tactics. There are suggestions that one
group offered the nomads of the region villas on the Côte D'Azur
in exchange for successful leads.
- Associates of Buigues, whose film of the recovery of
the first mammoth will be shown on the Discovery Channel on March 12, say
his tactics for winning their co-operation are simple. "He carries
a Polaroid camera everywhere to remind them who he is. Almost two-thirds
of the 8,000 nomads in the region now have a picture of him together with
- The prospect of discovering more animal remains in the
ice has revived hopes of finding cells in sufficiently good condition to
re-create some of the animal life of the Pleistocene era.
- Larry Agenbroad, professor of geology at North Arizona
University and one of the principal scientific advisers to the expedition,
believes it may be possible in the long term to introduce the animals to
- Agenbroad, who has spent 30 years working with mammoth
remains, said: "There is no significant difference between restoring
prehistoric animals and restoring modern creatures such as grizzly bear
and bison. Contrary to received opinion, hunting, not just climatic change,
also played a part in the demise of the mammoth."
- Rival Japanese researchers also have ambitions to emulate
Jurassic Park with a sanctuary for the offspring of frozen mammoths and
other extinct creatures.
- Professor Akira Iritani, of Kinki University, hopes to
find a suitable habitat for mammoths in a 100 sq mile wildlife reserve
in the Russian republic of Yakutia, known as Pleistocene Park. It is currently
home to Yakutian horses and Canadian bison.
- This weekend Iritani said he believed mammoths would
lumber across Siberia again within the next 20 years.
- "We went to the park and looked at it by helicopter.
It is fine in the summer, but we will have to provide some shelter for
the mammoth in winter. We could easily get our hands on ancient horses
and the ancestor of the Siberian tiger," he said.
- He envisages releasing up to 40 mammoths in the park,
and hopes to revive the species by cross-breeding with female elephants.
He believes each generation will approach more closely the genetic inheritance
of its forefathers as the females are impregnated with more DNA from the
- The first step begins next month when a team of 25 scientists
starts to thaw out the mammoth hacked out of the ground by Buigues.
- Images taken with ground-penetrating radar underpin their
hopes that the 21-ton block of ice and mud contains a complete mammoth.
Previous finds have been lost because of flawed excavation methods.
- But what if, against all hope, the block contains no
more than bones and a few tufts of matted hair? Buigues insists the search
will go on. "We are already planning for the next four years. There
are many, many more carcasses in the ice."
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