Russian authorities are about to sign off on an 8 million square hectare nature reserve in the country’s north, which they hope will protect against poaching, and safeguard an unusual ancient watering hole.
Located in the Arctic ocean north of Russian Siberia are the De Long and Anzhu islands, a normally frigid area which is home to the Great Siberian Ice Hole – an anomaly in the area in that, due to an unusual phenomenon, southerly winds prevent complete icing over during the winter periods.
This watering hole is a haven for a diversity of wildlife including polar bears, walrus, and several species of bird-life.
The reserve is also hoped to protect the area from illegal hunters seeking to collect extinct woolly mammoth bones on these remote Arctic islands. The area is home to the world’s largest deposit of mammoth bones, which are currently and actively being extracted in violation of environmental laws and regulations.
Mammoth bones can lawfully be collected from the ground, but the poachers often use water pumps in their pursuit of those bones that lie deeper underground, irreparably damaging the permafrost, and worsening soil erosion that is already in retreat at around 20 metres per year.
The poachers are also deposited on the islands by helicopter with very little supplies, so when the food runs out, they hunt, which is also affecting the fragile eco-system.
Mikhail Stishov, of WWF-Russia Arctic, said: ‘Looking for bone, poachers are destroying the soil cover, vegetation and the whole terrestrial ecosystem, which may never recover.
‘Nature in the Arctic is extremely fragile. Because of the low temperatures, all processes are slowed down, and it takes very long to recover.
The new Eco-zone has been approved by the republican authorities in Yakutia, and is only awaiting sign-off from Moscow.