Mammoth pirates plunder Russian arctic for "ethical ivory"

Reporter Amos Chapple went on an expedition with Russians engaging in the illegal but lucrative "ethical ivory" trade: pulling long-buried mammoth tusks from the permafrost, often by illegally gouging out entire hillsides.

On Chapple's expedition, the "agents" he accompanied made about $100,000 in cash in about eight days, uncovering three tusks.

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.”

The Mammoth Pirates (via Radio Free Europe)