“Being part of the recovery of Nun cho ga, the baby woolly mammoth found in the permafrost in the Klondike this week (on Solstice and Indigenous Peoples’ Day!), was the most exciting scientific thing I have ever been part of, bar none,” says Professor Dan Shugar.
Prof. Shugar is a member of the team who arrived to document this incredible baby. Believed to be female, she’s a wholly intact woolly mammoth calf – the first of her kind ever discovered in North America.
According to Shugar, the mammoth was discovered by a Yukon placer miner in the permafrost of northwestern Canada. The miner then called scientist Grant Zazula, “who put out call to any geologists in area to recover before it thawed,” Shugar adds. “We were incredibly lucky to be in Dawson with Jeff Bond & Derek Cronmiller from Yukon Geological Survey. Was a fast drive down 60km of mining roads.”
Her discovery comes from the indigenous Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation’s land. Likely over 30,000-years-old, Nun cho ga‘s name means “big baby animal” in the local Han language.
“Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world,” Yukon palaeontologist Grant Zazula tells BBC. She is, indeed, “the most complete mummified mammoth found in North America.”
Only two specimens like her are on the scientific record. The first came from Siberian permafrost in 2007. That baby, Lyuba, was around 42,000-years-old at the time of her discovery.
Preserved Baby Mammoth is Only the Second of Her Kind
Preserved partial remains have come aground in the past in North America. A mammoth calf, Effie, came to light in 1948, courtesy of another gold mine. That discovery, however, was on U.S. soil in Alaska.
As for Nun cho ga, she was discovered by a bulldozer moving mud and permafrost in Yukon’s Eureka Creek, south of Dawson City.
The most incredible thing about Nun cho ga is the preservation…toe nails, hide intact, hair, trunk, intestines… pic.twitter.com/A8sY0ztsNF— Prof Dan Shugar (@WaterSHEDLab) June 24, 2022
“The most incredible thing about Nun cho ga is the preservation,” Prof. Shugar offers via Twitter. “Toe nails, hide also intact, hair, trunk, intestines,” all of it.
“We were able to study the permafrost section that the mammoth came out of,” the professor continues. “And as soon as we finished up, the skies opened to an absolute downpour with lightning, hail, mud that seemed to come from the ground upwards. Incredibly grateful to miner Brian from Treadstone and also to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in for the opportunity to be part of this.”
And as soon as we finished up, the skies opened to an absolute downpour with lightning, hail, mud that seemed to come from the ground upwards. pic.twitter.com/a39YHYJFFf— Prof Dan Shugar (@WaterSHEDLab) June 24, 2022
The scene looks like something straight out of a Jurassic Park movie. And if scientists have their way, the classic series will soon no longer be fiction.
Currently, investors are pouring millions into the de-extinction of the wooly mammoth. And 2022’s discovery of baby Nun cho ga will certainly hasten their wild ambitions.