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From Russia with love: baby mammoth on way to Museum

UK debut for Lyuba the 42,000-year-old infant in the new Mammoths: Ice Age Giants exhibition.

The beautifully preserved body of the world's most complete woolly mammoth is on its way to the Natural History Museum from the Shemanovsky Museum in Russia as part of a new exhibition opening on 23 May.

The baby mammoth, named Lyuba, meaning love in Russian, is the size of a large dog and was thought to have been only one month old when she died.

Remarkable preservation

She is 85cm tall and 130cm long and was thought to have died 42,000 years ago. Incredibly, most of her body remains intact and remnants of her mother's milk are still in her stomach.

Her body was buried in wet clay and mud and then froze, preserving it until it was discovered by a reindeer herder and his sons in 2007 on the bank of the frozen Yuribei River on Russia's Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. She was named Lyuba after the herder's wife.

The baby mammoth has been held at the Shemanovsky Museum in Salekhard since her discovery. This will be the first time she will have been seen in western Europe.

Mammoth journey

Salekhard, about a four-day journey from Moscow, is the only Russian town in the Arctic Circle. Although it is accessible across the frozen river for ten months of the year, twice a year when the ice is floating the town is cut off from the rest of the world. 

Museum mammoths researcher Prof Adrian Lister described it as 'an honour' to be showing Lyuba as part of Mammoths: Ice Age Giants, an exhibition he was instrumental in creating for the Museum.

UK first

'This exhibition is a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet this amazing creature,' Prof Lister said. 'She is  hugely important for helping us to understand the lives of ice age animals.'

Lyuba was thought to have been healthy when she died and researchers hope examining her remains will provide further insight into what caused the ice age giants to become extinct as recently as 4,000 years ago.