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Siberian Mammoth Statue Gets a Christmas Makeover

Siberian Mammoth Statue Gets a Christmas Makeover

The Salekhard mammoth, ready for Christmas

Just below the Arctic Circle, a roadside mammoth statue welcomes visitors to Salekhard, the capital of Siberia’s Yamalo-Nenets province. Standing 10 meters tall and made of bronze, the statute is an approximation of the massive woolly mammoths that once roamed across Siberia during the Pleistocene Epoch, beginning two and a half million years ago. These megafauna giants were well suited to the inhospitable conditions of the last Ice Age, with their thick coats of coarse hair and fat deposits protecting them from the cold. Siberia is home to many of the world’s woolly mammoth fossils, the giants tied to the region’s culture and identity. 

In 2016, the Salekhard mammoth got a makeover for the Christmas season. Inspired by a kindergartener’s drawing, the local government decked the statue out in a red Santa hat and coat made up of 150 meters of fabric, adorned with 40 meters of artificial fur. After a month of cutting, sewing, and fitting, the massive costume was finally unveiled. With its new outfit, the Salekhard mammoth joined a long lineage of Russian wintertime figures like Ded Moroz, a Santa Claus-type figure from Slavic folklore, and the Snow Maiden Snegurochka, his companion who helps award good children on New Year’s Eve. 

Paleoart of the Adams Mammoth, the first documented mammoth fossil with preserved skin

Because woolly mammoths have only recently become extinct, their remains are well-preserved in the tough Siberian permafrost. As such, we are always learning new things about these towering animals. A 2021 paper published in Nature sought to do just that by investigating 535 genomic samples across 50,000 years in order to reconstruct the mammoth biome and its environment. It found that woolly mammoths and other megafauna lived as recently as 3,900 years ago in Siberia. Prior to this, it was thought that the only mammoth populations to survive to that point did so on Wrangle Island, but it seems mammoths were still flourishing on the mainland.

This finding is significant because it suggests that the woolly mammoth’s extinction was tied more directly to the Holocene Epoch’s warming climate than hunting from humans, as had been assumed. The woolly mammoth’s life and death is something of a biological catch-22: as an animal evolves and becomes suited to its specific environment, it is then at greater risk when that environment changes. But while the woolly mammoth is gone, it is still remembered across the Arctic Circle in places like Salekhard, with its jolly mammoth proving a welcome sight amidst the bitter arctic environment.


Interested in getting ahold of some mammoth material? Mini Museum has you covered with meat, hair, and tooth specimens. Check out our mammoth-sized mammoth collection!

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