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The illegal hunt for Mammoth tusks in Siberia by Amos Chapple

The illegal hunt for Mammoth tusks in Siberia by Amos Chapple

This series of photographs really blew me away. I had no idea there was such a thing as hunting for Mammoth tusks for sale on the world market.
These "hunters" go at it day and night and if the finds are good they can earn up to $100k for a week's work. It is also highly illegal and dangerous.
It is also worth nothing that some of the tusks found do not get sold to collectors but get ground down for medicine in Asia. We're talking tusks over 10,000 years old here. Crazy.

Credit: Amos Chapple
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The illegal hunt for Mammoth tusks in Siberia by Amos Chapple
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This 65-kilogram tusk, photographed a moment after it was plucked from the permafrost, was sold for $34,000. The two men who found it unearthed three more in just over a week, including one weighing 72 kilograms.
Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Some tuskers use the excavating power of the pressurized water to bore deep underground. This tunnel runs for over 60 meters.
Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Permafrost has none of the soft crunch its name suggests. Like a great, dirty iceberg, this sheet of ice lies just beneath the surface across the whole Yakutia region.
Credit: Amos Chapple

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In warm soil, bones would rot away within a decade. But tusks and bones like this one can survive tens of thousands of years once locked into the permafrost.
Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Another rhino skull, feeling the sun on its snout for the first time in at least 11,000 years. The man who found it says that “when you find a skull, the horn is usually 15 or 20 meters away.”
Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Held in the hand, the horn squelches like soggy driftwood and smells of unwashed dog. The market for powdered rhino horn in Vietnam is partly due to a belief it can cure cancer. By the time it reaches Vietnam, the horn will be worth more than its weight in gold.
Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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As the pumps roar through gasoline (one brigade went through five tons of it in three weeks) most of the prospectors will turn up only “worthless” bones like these. Dr. Valery Platnikov, a paleontologist familiar with this tusking site, estimates that “only around 20-30 percent [of tuskers] will find something significant enough to make a profit. It’s very sad.... A lot of these guys have taken out bank loans to pay for these expeditions.”
Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Credit: Amos Chapple

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Mosquitoes are a near constant plague. Only the coldest mornings offer an hour or two of relief.
Credit: Amos Chapple

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