‘I kind of want to touch it’ says my son.
‘Yeah…it’s really cool’ agrees his friend.
We definitely can’t touch what we’re looking at: a baby woolly mammoth who lived around 42,000 years ago and is now on display in a glass case at London’s Natural History Museum.
Her name is Lyuba (pronounced Looba – it means ‘love’ in Russian) and she was found by reindeer herder Yuri Khudi and his sons in 2007 as they looked for wood along the frozen Yuribel river in Siberia. Scientists believe that she became stuck in wet clay and mud which then froze, preserving her body for thousands of years. She was just one month old when she died and her mother’s milk was still in her stomach when she was found.
Lyuba is the most complete woolly mammoth ever to have been found anywhere in the world. Her tail and most of her coat are missing and her trunk is shrunken but she’s pretty much intact and is 85 cms tall and 130 cms long – about the size of a large dog.
Lyuba takes pride of place in the Mammoths exhibition running at the Natural History Museum from now until 7th September, 2014. The baby mammoth is owned by the Shemanovsky Museum-Exhibition Complex in Russia and this is the first time that she’s been exhibited in Europe. I feel privileged to be looking at this amazing creature.
My son and his friend, 11 and 10, hadn’t been tremendously keen to come to the exhibition – they’d rather spend their INSET day playing Minecraft – but once inside they enjoy trying out the interactive exhibits and learning all about mammoths.
The exhibition covers different species of mammoth from the giant spiral-tusked Colombian mammoth to the dwarf mammoth as well as ice age creatures such as the mastodon and the giant cave bear. It looks at how and why these prehistoric animals evolved and became extinct and at the possibility of cloning them.
The exhibition is definitely geared up for children— many of the exhibits have signs inviting you to touch them. As we walk around the exhibition it seems to answer all of the questions the boys have about these animals: ‘Aren’t mammoths the ancestors of elephants?’ says my son just before we reach a display answering this very question:
The boys like trying out the interactive exhibits such as the mechanical trunk and the mammoth’s dinner which you can lift up to test your strength. The short information videos are great and engage their attention perfectly.
The last part of the exhibition looks at the conservation of the mammoth’s relative the elephant, the largest land mammal on earth today. Elephants are under threat from poachers, conflict and the loss of habitat. I really hope that they don’t end up like their ancestors the mammoths, exhibits in glass cases in museums.
The boys and I really enjoyed this exhibition and I would definitely recommend it to families with children.
Entrance to the Mammoths exhibition costs £10 for adults, £6 for children age 4-16, £28 for a family and under-4s are free. Entrance to the main Natural History Museum is free but donations are welcome. Thank you to the Natural History Museum for inviting me to review the exhibition.