Usually, a group of hunters posing for photos next to the remains of a deceased animal is viewed in a negative light by conservationists, but when those individuals have just discovered a one-of-a-kind 10,000 year old baby wooly rhino, it’s a whole different story.
According to Wired, a pair hunters were boating down a stream in Siberia when they noticed a few tufts of wavy, auburn-colored fur sticking out of the permafrost. They stopped to investigate what they originally believed was a dead reindeer, only to discover something far different.
“We were sailing past a ravine and noticed hair hanging on the top of it,” Alexander Banderov, one of the two hunters that found the rhino remains, told The Siberian Times. “After it thawed… we saw a horn on its upper jaw and realized it must be a rhino. The part of the carcass that stuck out of the ice was eaten by wild animals, but the rest of it was… preserved well.”
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Banderov and his friend, Semen Ivanov, then contacted the Mammoth Fauna Department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences and removed it from the ice. The duo stored the creature through the harshest part of the winter, and delivered it to the Sakha Republic Academy of Sciences last week. The rhino was named in honor of Banderov and shares his nickname, Sasha.
While its backside was chewed off by predators, the rest of the specimen is largely intact and includes bones from the head, leg and torso, as well as an ear, an eye, teeth, two horns and a flap of wool-covered sin, according to reports. Since it was preserved in the ice, researchers hope that it may also still contain DNA that can be used to find its closest modern-day relative.
While the exact age of the cub when it died has not yet been determined, scientists estimate that Sasha was approximately 18 months old. Tests will be conducted to confirm its age, and those results will likely be available in six months. While some adult wooly rhinos have been found in the past, is marks the first time that the remains of a cub have been successfully recovered.
“The find is absolutely unique. We can count a number of adult woolly rhinos found around the world on fingers of one hand. A baby rhino was never found before,” Albert Protopopov, head of the Mammoth Fauna Department at the Sakha Republic Academy of Sciences, told The Siberian Times. “Even to find a skull of a baby rhino is very lucky indeed.”
“We know nothing about baby rhinos… we didn’t have a chance to work even with a tooth of a baby rhino, and now we have the whole skull, the head, soft tissues, and well preserved teeth,” he added. “We are hoping Sasha the rhino will give us a lot of answers to questions of how they grew and developed, what conditions they lived in, and which of the modern day animals is the closest to them… We are hoping to report first results in a week or two.”