A Commentary from RUSI on 24 June was concerned with the unusual subject of the trade in remains of a long-extinct animal, triggered by climate change. It says that the receding permafrost in Russia has opened up new opportunities for illegal activity, but which the Russian authorities have so far failed to address. Thawing permafrost in these Far Eastern regions has for the past few decades begun to expose the bones of prehistoric mammoth. Although prospecting for the tusks without a licence is illegal, increasing numbers of hunters are searching for them, which are then illegally trafficked across the border and on to Asian markets, particularly China. In Russia, hunters are permitted to legally collect a certain number of tusks, but this requires an operating licence, compliance with certain environmental regulations, and tax and customs payments if they are exported. However, it is not clear from Russian law whether the tusks should be classified as a mineral, an archaeological find or a scientific discovery, all of which impact on the type of licence required to prospect for them, as well as on the punishment for their illegal trafficking.
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