Mammoth tusk ivory comes from the two modified upper incisors of extinct mammoth.

Mammoth Tusk Ivory is an International Free Trade merchandise

Unlike African and modern elephant ivory, mammoths have been extinct for 10,000 years. It is not listed in the Appendices to the CITES. As such, it is not subject to control under the Animals and Plants (Protection of Endangered Species) Ordinance, Cap. 187. All mammoth ivory tusk itself is already a precious antique. Because of the geographical range in Alaska and Siberia , Mammuthus primigenus tusks have been well preserved. Therefore, Mammuthus primigenus is the only extinct proboscidan which consistently provides high quality, valuable and precious carvable ivory.

MAMMOTH [mammoth] name for several large prehistoric elephants of the extinct genus Mammuthus, which ranged over Eurasia and North America in the Pleistocene epoch. The shoulder height of the Siberian, or woolly, mammoth, which roamed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, was about 9 ft (2.7 m), and that of the imperial mammoth of the North American Great Plains was up to 13 1/2 ft (4.1 m). Mammoths were covered by a long, shaggy, black outer coat and a dense, woolly undercoat. They had complex, many-ridged molar teeth; long, slender upward-curved tusks; and a long trunk. Ivory hunters have collected their tusks for centuries in Siberia, where some 50,000 have been discovered; it is from these and from the drawings left by the Cro-Magnon people in the caves of S France that the mammoth's appearance is known. Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) people hunted mammoths, as is evidenced by remains of the animals found together with tools, and may have contributed to their extinction. Mammoths are classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Proboscidea, family Elephantidae.

Fossil ivory or mammoth ivory tusk is procured from the modified two upper incisors of the Woolly mammoth. This fossil ivory or Mastodon ivory is harvested from the fossilized remains of the wooly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) that have been extinct since the last 10,000 years. The remains of these huge animals are found in Siberia, Alaska and other regions of Russia. The fossilized ivory is a precious commodity which is extracted from the permafrost and thus, has high antique and historical value. The Mammoth ivory is as good as elephant ivory when it comes to its quality and luster.
Mammoth ivory as International Free Trade merchandise

Wooly mammoths have been extinct for the past 10,000 years unlike Asian and African elephants so mammoth ivory is not listed in the Appendices to the CITES nor is mammoth ivory subject to control as per the listed Animals and Plants (Protection of Endangered Species) Ordinance, Cap. 187. Mammoth ivory is a precious relic of the past that has been well preserved in the coldest tundra regions of Siberia and Alaska. Thus, mammoths or Mammuthus primigenus is an extinct proboscidan and the only legal source of high grade precious ivory that can be used for carvings.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the demand of mammoth ivory which has led to an unquenchable proportion. But if you look at the current scenario, mammoth ivory is non replenishable. There are only limited mammoth ivory that can be extracted from the fossilized carcass and how long can that be done?

Most researchers have estimated about over 9 million carcasses are still buried under the deep permafrost in the Tundra regions and about the same number are available to be harvested in the higher regions in China. There is a high demand of mammoth ivory in China where not only do sculptors need this powerful medium to carve and sculpt but traditional herbal medicine practitioners require the low quality mammoth ivory chips and dust to put into traditional medicines.

After the banning of elephant ivory in 1999, fossil ivory became much in demand as an alternative medium to elephant ivory. However, there is another aspect of paleontologists and archeologists to harvesting ivory. According to them, excavating the carcass for harvesting the tusks, which has been buried for centuries and converted into a fossil leads to damage of scientific data. But fossil ivory traders have a different view and claim that it is better to unearthed the precious material from the soil and sculpt it for people to enjoy the beauty of ageless ivory.

Along Hollywood Road in Central, about a dozen shops sell mammoth ivory and a number of high-end shops trade exclusively in mammoth products, such as Cho's Arts Crafts, run by Amy Cho and her husband.

They import about 8 tonnes of mammoth ivory every year from Siberia and export it to their factory in Guangzhou.

Cho said prices for raw mammoth ivory had tripled in the past 10 years, with low-quality ivory costing about HK$1,000 per kilogram and the better-quality ivory as much as HK$6,000 per kilogram.

They have doubled their staff since 2000 and now employ 100 people, aged between 20 and 40, who design, carve and polish the ivory.

Previously, 70 per cent of the finished items would return to Hong Kong, but this proportion has fallen to 30 per cent in recent years because more of it remains on the mainland to meet local demand.

The growing demand for mammoth ivory - dubbed by some ethical ivory because the material is sourced from an extinct species - is, in part, the result of a ban on the trading of elephant ivory imposed in 1989.

The ban was imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in wild fauna and flora (Cites) owing to high levels of poaching that were decimating elephant populations across Africa. The move meant more than 1,000 businesses in Hong Kong selling ivory had to apply for a licence to sell their remaining elephant ivory stocks in 1990.

Soon afterwards, many either closed down or shifted to selling mammoth ivory.

The process of sourcing mammoth ivory begins in Russia where, during their summer, thousands of locals flock to the tundra of northern Siberia.

As the ice thaws from June to September, the frozen graves of mammoths melt and the corpses of the long-extinct beasts rise to the surface.

The Russians, who must have permits to collect the dead animals, gather the tusks, which are then exported.

It is thought that the remains of up to 150 million woolly mammoths may be buried beneath the tundra.

While the annual collection of tusks has been going on for thousands of years, demand for mammoth ivory has risen steadily over the past decade, with Hong Kong as a major hub for the trade.

In 2000, about five tonnes of mammoth ivory, worth about HK$2.3 million, was imported from Russia. By 2007, this had risen to 46.2 tonnes with an estimated value of HK$60 million - the bulk of it imported from Russia. In the first eight months of this year, more than 22.6 tonnes of mammoth ivory had arrived in Hong Kong from Russia alone.

Other countries that export mammoth ivory to Hong Kong include the United States, Germany, Canada and Austria, but the amounts from these sources are insignificant.

Since 2011 it has been a different story. In Hong Kong mammoth ivory is traded in US dollars and graded A to D. In 2004 the wholesale price for A grade mammoth was $275 a kilo. By early 2011 it had risen to $600 a kilo.

As valuable as mammoth fossils are to the scientific community, their worth on the open market has been soaring. With the sale of ivory from elephants banned internationally, traders have begun to market mammoth ivory—primarily obtained from Siberia—as an alternative under the name “ethical ivory.” As a result, says Zazula, tusks can be worth a small fortune. “A miner might sell the tusk for $5,000 to a middleman who turns around and sells it to a broker or collector in Vancouver for $10,000,” he says. “From there it might be taken to China, Hong Kong or Southeast Asia and unloaded for $20,000.”

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