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A lifesize model of a Woolly Mammoth in the Brno museum Anthropos. (Image: WikiMedia Commons)

A lifesize model of a Woolly Mammoth in the Brno museum Anthropos. (Image: WikiMedia Commons)

Woolly mammoths roamed the Earth during the Pleistocene period, tens of thousands of years ago. The large animals are thought to have abounded on the Colorado Plateau (modern-day Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico) before their extinction, which was likely the result of hunting and environmental change.

Earlier this year, the most complete woolly mammoth carcass ever recovered was unveiled at an exhibition in Hong Kong. The baby female, nicknamed Niko, lived about 37,000 years ago, and is notable because of the preservation of her fur and muscles. Samples from Niko have been sent to the laboratory of Dae Woong, a South Korean stem cell scientist, who, with Polish researchers, has promised the ability to clone the mammoth.

Now that high quality mammoth cells can be extracted from specimens and easily cloned, scientists agree that the next steps are de-extinction and reintroduction, and experts are turning to environmental and endangered species groups around the world. The large animals are thought to have thrived most successfully in higher altitude, dry, desert-like ecosystems, and their diet consisted of water sedges, pondweed, elderberry, snowberry, wild rose, raspberries, currants, spruce, sagebrush, water birch, oak, juniper, grasses, and prickly pear cactus. Because Colorado and the surrounding Rocky Mountains host a plethora of relatively untouched and high-altitude habitat that hosts many of these food sources, it is generally agreed to be an ideal region for reintroduction.

In 1999, Rocky Mountain Wild (formerly Center for Native Ecosystems), was a key stakeholder in the reintroduction of the Canada lynx into the southern Rockies, an area which now hosts over 200 lynx roaming across Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah, including the first generations born in the wild here in decades. Because of our expertise and experience with the lynx reintroduction, Rocky Mountain Wild has been approached to lead the woolly mammoth reintroduction effort. We could not be more excited that you’ve read this far into this blog post, because….. April Fools!

(This article originally appeared on Rocky Mountain Wild. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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