History of the Park
Sergey Zimov conducted the first experiments on animal reintroduction back in 1988. He brought a dozen cold adapted yakutian horses to the site near his research camp in the Kolyma river lowland. However with the Soviet Union collapse and cancellation of all funding, the project stopped and horses were given to a native farmer. At that time our main focus was to keep the North-East Scientific Station alive and find a new source of funding to conduct research in the Arctic.
Pleistocene Park started in 1996. The Russian government gave us 144 km2 of land for the experiment and an official company was registered. In the first year we built a small 50 hectare fence (“old fenced area”). The first animal introduced were yakutian horses, moose and reindeer – animals which could be found locally. In 2005-2006 we built a 2000 hectare fence (big fenced area). Starting in 2010 North-East Science Station grew big enough to be able to fund transportation of animals from other regions. Since then, we have introduced musk ox from the Wrangel Island; European bison from the nature reserve near Moscow; yaks, Kalmykain cows and sheep from the lake Baikal region to the park.
In 2012-2016 at the base camp of the Pleistocene Park we built a permafrost cave – a network of tunnels within the permafrost (total over 200 meters). It is used as a year round storage, research tunnel and a visual example of the permafrost degradation problem.
Over the 20 years of our experiment, animals have created a noticeable effect on the vegetation within the fenced areas in the Park. Grasses are now the dominant vegetation at many locations, carbon storage in the soil is slowly increasing and rates of the nutrient turnover are accelerating. We cannot state that we have already managed to establish a high productive grazing ecosystem (there is still a lot to be done) but we are progressing in that direction.
Future plans for Park development include the introduction of American bison (steppe or wood) and the introduction of a bigger herd of musk ox. Additionally we plan to increase the fenced area to encompass the full area of the land Pleistocene Park owns and eventually plan to introduce predators to the ecosystem.