Juvenile Woolly Rhino Carcass Found in Siberia


The Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha, via Siberian Times

Last summer, Alexander “Sasha” Banderov and Simeon Ivanov were sailing on a stream flowing into Siberia’s Semyulyakh River when they saw something odd. The hunters were passing a ravine and noticed hair hanging down from the top right bank. They thought it might belong to the remains of a reindeer, but they couldn’t be sure—whatever it was, it was too far away for them to get a good look. When they returned to the spot in September, however, the ice had thawed, and the chunk containing the carcass had fallen onto the riverbank, allowing the hunters to get close enough to figure out what the carcass was. “We saw a horn on its upper jaw and realized it must be a rhino,” Banderov told the Siberian Times. The carcass is only the second woolly rhinoceros specimen ever found, and the first ever calf.

Though the exposed part of the carcass had been gnawed on by animals, the rest of the carcass was in pristine condition. Banderov and Ivanov took the carcass home and placed it in a glacier to keep it cold (who needs a freezer when you live in Siberia?), then called scientists in the Mammoth Fauna Department at the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha, Yakutia, 1800 miles away. This week, the museum held a press conference announcing the incredible find.

Woolly rhinos roamed Europe and Northern Asia during the Pleistocene Epoch before they went extinct 10,000 years ago, but specimens, even incomplete ones, are incredibly rare. “We know nothing about baby rhinos. Even to find a skull of a baby rhino is very lucky indeed,” Albert Protopopov, head of the Mammoth Fauna Department, said. “So far 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. … 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.”

Scientists plan to try to extract DNA from the preserved remains. They believe the rhino—which they’ve named Sasha—died from falling into a pit, and was around 18 months old at the time of its death.