The Pleistocene Park in the Republic of Sacha, in the northeast of Russia, is probably unique in its kind. The area of about 2,000 hectares is not a museum or a zoo, but serves science. The idea: With the help of large grazing animals such as bison, reindeer, musk oxen and other pasture animals adapted to the cold, the mammoth steppe, which once dominated the tundra, is to be revived and thus protect the permafrost soil from thawing.
The video film (length: 26 minutes) has been awarded several times and can be seen in English.
Grant Slater’s award-winning documentary shows how the park’s initiators, Sergey Zimov, and his son Nikita Zimov, came up with one of the most unusual and challenging projects to protect the Arctic. The Pleistocene Park does not simply want to bring the wildlife of the eponymous geological period back to life. Rather, the “Mammut-Steppe” habitat is intended to help mitigate the effects of climate change in Russia’s Arctic tundra. Large herds of grazing animals are designed to ensure that the taiga does not spread further north; that nutrients for plants are recycled by manure; that carbon is converted and removed from the atmosphere. In addition, it has now been shown that the permafrost soil freezes more in winter due to the compacting of the snow cover and thaws less quickly even with high heat.
The area in which the park is located belongs to the Republic of Sacha, is sparsely populated and hardly developed. The Kolyma River, like many rivers in Sacha, is the best and fastest connection to nearby Chersky. In the middle of the park is an old TV station, which was converted by Sergey and Nikita into a research station and housing estate. Since 1996, bison, musk oxen, yaks, Yakutski’s horses, goats and reindeer have been settled in the park and observed and cared for.
The idea of resettling large grazing animals here also attracted some geneticists and other researchers. Their goal is to resettle animals like mammoths. However, these plans do not necessarily only meet with opposition. Many scientists think the idea is abstruse or too much “Jurassic Park.” But the initiators point to the benefits that such a project could have: the large animals would benefit more areas from the benefits of grassing, and the effects of climate change could be mitigated. They agree that climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges, and slowing down should be a top priority, especially for future generations.