Russia Plans 4.5m Project To Bring Back The Woolly Mammoth

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Russia is opening a brand-new £4.5 million ($5.9 million) cloning facility that aims to bring back the woolly mammoth and other long-extinct species.

Plans for the 'world class' research centre in the city of Yakutsk will purportedly be unveiled next month by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a major investment forum.

As well as woolly mammoths, Russian geneticists are set to study a number of extinct species, including the woolly rhinoceros, which died out 10,000 years ago.

The cloning laboratories – some sunk deep in Yakutsk's permafrost soil – aim to extend current research by Russian scientists, who are working closely with a team of South Korean specialists to restore the long-gone mammals.

Yakutsk, the capital of Russia's diamond-rich Sakha Republic, is a hot spot for frozen animal remains.

As many as 80 per cent of samples of Pleistocene and Holocene animals with preserved soft tissues discovered in Russia have been unearthed in the region.

DNA from the ancient animals can stay preserved in remains encased in frozen soil, known as permafrost, for tens of thousands of years.

It is hoped that by extracting DNA from these preserved remains, researchers will gain a better understanding of the biology behind some of the largest creatures to ever roam the Earth.

Woolly mammoths co-existed with early humans, who hunted the animal to use its bones and tusks for tools, shelter, as well as food.

The animal, which could weigh a maximum of 6000kg (6 metric tons), disappeared from its mainland range at the end of the Pleistocene era, around 10,000 years ago.

However, isolated populations of the animal are believed to have survived on St. Paul Island, in Alaska until 5,600 years ago and on Wrangel Island, in Russia, until as recently as 4,000 years ago.

Woolly mammoths are believed to have been wiped out because of a shrinking habitat caused by climate change, as well as hunting by humans, experts say.

Several international projects, including a team at Harvard University, are already racing to use preserved mammoth DNA to resurrect the ancient species.

The new Russian centre will 'aim to study extinct animals from living cells – and to restore such creatures as the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave lion and breeds of long-gone horses', according to the The Siberian Times.