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Could the woolly mammoth return to Ilford? Scientists plan to recreate the historic creature

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 February 2017

An illustration of the Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth which lived during the ice age. Researchers, in a project reminiscent of the movie Jurassic Park, want to use ancient DNA and modern-day elephant sperm to try an recreate the prehistoric creature.  CREDIT: The Natural History Museum, London/PA

An illustration of the Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth which lived during the ice age. Researchers, in a project reminiscent of the movie Jurassic Park, want to use ancient DNA and modern-day elephant sperm to try an recreate the prehistoric creature. CREDIT: The Natural History Museum, London/PA

PA Archive/Press Association Images

An ancient beast which roamed Ilford hundreds of thousands of years ago could be resurrected if scientists are successful.

Redbridge Musuem exhibition about the Ice age including a replica skull of the Ilford MammothRedbridge Musuem exhibition about the Ice age including a replica skull of the Ilford Mammoth

The woolly mammoth is one of the most iconic animals of Earth’s history and scientists say it is on the brink of returning.

It roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the last Ice Age and vanished some 4,500 years ago, probably due to a combination of climate change and hunting by humans.

Now, experts at Harvard University hope to create a mammoth-elephant hybrid embryo from DNA of mammoth remains discovered frozen in Siberian ice.

They plan to programme the key mammoth traits extracted from the Siberian ice into an Asian elephant.

Then the embryo would be grown within an artificial womb rather than recruit a female elephant as a surrogate mother.

The bundle of cells would have genes for mammoth features such as shaggy long hair, thick layers of fat, and cold-adapted blood.

In the borough, the entire skeleton of a large mammoth was discovered in the Uphall Pit, a brick-earth pit near Ilford Lane, in 1863.

It was one of the most best preserved remains ever found with tusks nearly three metres long and was discovered among a treasure trove of mammoth remains in the pit.

But Gerard Greene, Redbridge Museum’s manager, doesn’t suspect the creatures will be seen wandering down High Road any time soon.

He said: “I’ve heard versions of this story before about plans to bring the mammoths back.

“When we had an expert from the National History Museum give a talk before, he was reticent about the viability of such plans.”

But if the big beasts did make a return to the borough, they would need a large amount of land to graze on, said Mr Greene.

He said: “I don’t know if the park keepers would be pleased but Valentines Park might be suitable.

“They need a lot of land to constantly graze so it wouldn’t be good for the flowers and the plants.”

Professor George Church, who heads the Harvard University team, believes the embryo could be created in two years or less.

He said: “Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant and mammoth embryo.

“Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits.

“We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

Residents can see a cast of the Ilford mammoth on display in Redbridge Central Library and learn more about Ice Age Ilford at Redbridge Museum.

Find out more here.


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