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>> It's a giant source of wealth in Russia's Yakutsk region. Mammoth ivory coveted for jewelry and trinkets. The fossil tusks are so plentiful that officials say 80 tons of the stuff was gathered here last year alone. Traders promoting it as an ethical alternative to elephant ivory. It's banned to dig for mammoth remains in Russia, but with a license, you can gather it from the surface because spring rains often flash out rich pickings.
Some collectors use water pumps to mimic the effect, an illegal practice because it harms the environment. Now Yakutsk's government wants to tax the tusks, as it would gold or diamonds. A kilo of high grade mammoth ivory can fetch $430 or more. Some environmental groups oppose the trade, saying it could encourage poachers to try to pass off illegal elephant ivory as coming from their ancient, woolly relatives.