| During the Pleistocene,
much of the Siberian north was covered with a steppe grassland which was
the home of millions of bison, mammoths, and other grazing animals. In
the picture at the right, Sergei Zimov, Director of the Northeast Science
Station, carries a mammoth bone found in a deposit near Pleistocene Park.
However, the huge herds of animals have disappeared, and the once-rich
grasslands on which they grazed are now largely dominated by shrubs or
mossy tundras and bogs.
In 1989 Sergei Zimov initiated a small-scale experiment to attempt to reconvert these areas to productive grassland by reintroducing grazers. He brought in a small herd of hardy Yakutian horses, the closest descendants of the Pleistocene horse which lived in this region, and pastured them in a small paddock for several weeks.
After several weeks of acclimation in the pens, the horses were released into the wild. To this day, they or their offspring can be seen in areas where their grazing activity has increased the abundance of grasses sufficiently to support them.
Since this experiment, a portion of land has been set aside in the Nizhnekolymskii Ulus of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for Pleistocene Park. Fences were built and horses and moose have been introduced into the enclosure.
|It is the hope of the supporters of Pleistocene
Park that bison, a key element of the prehistoric
steppe tundra ecosystem, will join the horses, moose, caribou and muskoxen.
Eventually, this park may be a home for the endangered Siberian tiger, a descendant of the major predator of the prehistoric ecosystem.
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