Behind the scene
Behind the scene
The story of lyuba
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The story of lyuba

During the late Pleistocene 40,000 years ago mammoths still thrived in the cold, dry regions of Siberia known as steppe. It was the perfect time and place to be a baby mammoth unaware of her destiny, to stumble into the 21st century and the path of a Nenet's family.

Baby Lyuba might have been only a few months old, traveling with the mammoth herd under the watchful eye of her mother. She would mimic the gestures of her family, but would not yet be coordinated or mature enough for a diet of plants. Lyuba would still be dependent on her mother's milk.

So how did Lyuba die? Crossing even a small stream would have been a challenge for any baby mammoth. But a one month old calf may not have had the skill to free itself from the mud. Frightened and flailing about she may have panicked inhaling murky water as she cried out for her mother, and finally choked on the thick river mud. She died by suffocation or drowning. By a strange twist of fate, this sad ending turned out to be just the beginning of Baby Lyuba's phenomenal tale.

More Video
The Story of Lyuba
Source: François Latreille/ Mammuthus ProjectFootage from National Geographic
Looking at Lyuba
Source: François Latreille/ Mammuthus Project Footage from National Geographic
Mammoths and Elephants
Footage from Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii sunghari) Skeleton

Overall dimensions 7.3 x 1.8 x 5.5 meters Male China

The steppe mammoth is the immediate ancestor of the woolly mammoth. It is one of the largest members of the elephant family to have ever lived. The oldest known specimen of a steppe mammoth is from China.

Courtesy Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology Beijing, China

LYUBA - Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)

84 cm tall and 50 kg in weight

Lyuba is a 32 days old female woolly mammoth. She is almost complete - even her heart, stomach, intestines, and lungs are fully intact, although she has lost her toenails, tail, one ear, most of her woolly undercoat and long shaggy hair. Lyuba was most likely suffocated in mud, allowing her body to become trapped in the Siberian permafrost.

Courtesy I.S. Shemanovsky Yamal-Nenets Regional Museum and Exhibition Center, Salekhard, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia

Steppe Bison (Bison pricus) Skull

Steppe bison were common during the Pleistocene and have even been captured in cave art. They went extinct about 10,000 years ago, but are the ancestors of European and North American bison.

Courtesy Mammuthus Project

Cave Lion (Panthera spelaea) Skull

Cave lions lived in Europe, Asia, and North America from about 300,000 to 10,000 years ago. They are depicted in cave paintings as having had a short mane around their necks.

Cast by Bone Clones

Woolly Rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) Skull with Horn

The woolly rhinoceros first evolved in Tibet. They lived throughout Europe and Asia on the mammoth steppe, becoming extinct about the same time as steppe bison. Woolly rhinoceros could grow up to about 4 meters long and weighed several tons.

Courtesy Mammuthus Project

Lyuba's World

Lyuba, a baby woolly mammoth, lived about 42,000 years ago on the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia. This was the Pleistocene period beginning about 2.6 million years ago and ending about 12,000 years ago, when this area was covered in snow and ice during the long winter and was a lush steppe during the short summer. In the spring when Lyuba was born, the steppe would have been laced by rivers and bogs full of melted snow and ice. The first woolly mammoths had evolved in this cold environment by 800,000 years ago, but most had died by about 10,000 years ago.

The first humans arrived in Siberia about 45,000 years. They were Stone Age hunter-gatherers who moved from place to place using mammoth meat for food, and bones, tusks, and skin for clothing, tools, artwork, and shelter. Today, Yamal is part of an autonomous region of Russia called the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

Finding Lyuba

In May 2007, as the spring thaw was beginning, the sons of Nenets reindeer herder Yuri Khudi found the frozen body of an almost completely intact baby mammoth lying on a river bank, while they were out collecting wood. Many Nenets believe that mammoths are creatures from the underworld and bring bad luck to anyone who finds them. Yuri was faced with a difficult decision—what should he do with it? Could the creature harm him? After consulting the spirits at a local shrine, Yuri decided to tell the authorities about his find and so an incredible source of information about Lyuba's Pleistocene world was recovered for science.

The Nenets people have been finding mammoth tusks and bones for centuries, but intact baby mammoths like Lyuba are rarely found. Lyuba, which means "love" in Russian, was named after Yuri's wife, and is now much-loved as a treasure of the Yamalo-Nenets region.

The World of the Nenets

The Yamal Peninsula has more reindeer than people. Located above the Arctic circle, some 10,000 nomads herd about 300,000 reindeer. This is a harsh environment where winter temperatures can plummet to negative 50 degrees Celsius. The Nenets live in tents, called chum, that are made of wooden poles covered in reindeer hide. A Nenets family might travel over 1,000 km a year, carting everything they own on sleds pulled by reindeer. In Nenets culture, the men take care of the reindeer while women take care of everything related to the chum and the children.

Reindeer provide transportation, food, and skins for clothes as well. Reindeer hide is warm and waterproof, which is used to make coats, gloves, and boots. Men wear a coat with a hood called a malitsa that has the fur closest to the skin on the inside. The women wear a coat made of layers of reindeer skin called a yagushka.

The Nenets are closely connected to the earth. While the Siberian landscape might look like a featureless expanse of snow in the winter and a vast sea of grass in the summer, the Nenets believe there are places on the landscape where one can go to make offerings and ask the spirit world for guidance.

Except for her toenails, tail, and one ear, Lyuba's body is complete – even her heart, stomach, intestines, and lungs are fully intact. Lyuba's discovery was an unparalleled opportunity to learn about a baby woolly mammoth, as well as to study similarities and differences between mammoths and modern elephants. Bernard Buigues, the director of the Mammuthus Project, and Sergey Grishin, the Director of the Shemanovsky Museum, assembled a team of experts from all over the world to analyze Lyuba. These scientists imaged Lyuba's insides with CT scanning technology, sampled food remains from her stomach, and extracted teeth, tusk and tissue samples to find out her age and look at her health.

Radiocarbon dating showed that Lyuba lived about 42,000 years ago, just after humans arrived in Siberia. Lyuba's body showed no sign of cuts or broken bones that would have resulted from death at the hands of humans or a carnivore, such as a cave lion. The CT scan provided the first evidence that sediment was blocking Lyuba's windpipe and other air passages, suggesting that she might have asphyxiated by inhaling mud after becoming trapped in a mire.

Scientists probed inside Lyuba's body to see it from the inside and collect samples from her stomach and intestines. They contained milk and dung. Lyuba was still nursing. Modern elephant babies eat their mother's dung to obtain beneficial bacteria that help digest plants. Lyuba may have done this as well.

Scientists removed Lyuba's milk tusk and molar to find out her age. Mammoth tusks and teeth grow as layers of dentin are laid from the inside out. A new layer of dentin is formed every day. By counting the microscopic layers, scientists discovered that Lyuba was just 32 days old when she died.

Mammoths and Elephants

Mammoths are part of a family called Elephantidae that also contains modern elephants: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. Mammoths originated in Africa about 1.6 million years ago and were once widespread, living on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Woolly mammoths evolved about 800,000 years ago in Eurasia.

In contrast to living elephants which live in warm environments, woolly mammoths were adapted to the cold. They were smaller and stockier than African elephants and had a thick layer of fat to keep them warm. Living elephants have large ears to radiate body heat, but woolly mammoths had relatively tiny ears. This helped keep them from losing body heat. Because they are closely related to living elephants, many scientists think that they probably behaved in similar ways. For example, we think that mammoths lived in family groups because modern elephants live in families of a dozen or more individuals.

New Baby Mammoth - Khroma

New Baby Mammoths Emerge

Dima, found in 1977, was the first frozen baby mammoth to be studied by scientists. She was seven or eight months old when she died.Following the discovery of Dima, three new baby mammoths—Lyuba, Khroma, and Yuka, have been found since 2007.

Khroma looked more like a block of ice than a mammoth when she was found in 2009. She had to be carefully thawed in a special cold storage room before she could be studied. Khroma has lost her trunk, but still has a lot of her shaggy coat. She is about the same size as Lyuba and was just a few months old when she died. Khroma is at least 50,000 years old, however, making her more ancient than Lyuba. The CT scan showed that Khroma and Lyuba have different bone structures, particularly in the face. Khroma's face is wider and more robust than Lyuba's. She has a boney structure at the tip of her upper jaw. One idea is that Khroma and Lyuba could be two different species of woolly mammoth.

The discoveries of the new baby mammoths have made news around the world. In part, this is thanks to the efforts of the International Mammoth Committee, an organization made up of renowned scientists, and the Mammuthus Project. With the support of Russian museum officials and the Ministry of Culture, the International Mammoth Committee and Mammuthus are the first responders for mammoths that emerge from permafrost, the permanently frozen soil that underlies much of the Siberian tundra. They travel to extremely remote areas to collect specimens reported by local people such as Yuri Khudi. Their goal is to get these precious discoveries into an environment where they can be preserved and studied. Many scientists suggest that as the world warms, much more permafrost will melt, revealing many new mammoths and other ice age animals in well-preserved states.

To enhance the experience in understanding the mystery of the long-extinct mammoth and its pre-historical era, the exhibition features audio-visual information, interactive video clips and mini quizzes.

1. Window to a Mammoth's World
2. Looking at Lyuba
3. Mammoths & Elephants
Interview with Bernard Buigues
What made you so interested in mammoth?
I have loved mammoths since I was a child but today I appreciate them even more because by studying them we get an understanding of what the world was like 50,000 years ago.
You have been conducting expeditions to the North Pole since the 1970’s. How many times have you been there and what is so special it?
I like Siberia and the Polar Regions very much and have been organising polar expeditions there since 1979. I have been there more than 50 times! The North Pole is a magical place – it is the summit of the Earth where all the meridians of the world meet – a desert of frozen ocean in perpetual movement.
You bought Baby Lyuba’s discovery to the world. You have also been credited with other important discoveries in Siberia – “Jarkov” was one of them. Tell me about this.
Jarkov was the first discovery of a mammoth with bone, hair and flesh. It was very difficult to unearth Jarkov as it had been frozen for 20,000 years. To preserve as much of the mammoth and its surroundings as possible, we had to keep everything cold at minus 35 degrees Celsius!! Finally after 2 years, we excavated a block of mammoth that weighted 2 tonnes, which had to be transported in the biggest helicopter in the world to the museum in the village of Khatanga.
Why is Lyuba’s story so important to the world?
Lyuba is extremely important because she is the only baby mammoth ever found that is completely and perfectly preserved. All of Lyuba’s internal organs are in perfect condition enabling scientific study like never before. We even found her mother’s milk inside her intestine which also provides information about the mother. The study of Lyuba and other mammoth discoveries is crucial to understanding the world in which they lived and why they disappeared 10,000 years ago.
Scientists say they can recreate the mammoth in a laboratory. What’s your opinion on recreating the mammoth and/or other extinct animals?
Scientists have been pre-occupied with recreating extinct species for the last 10 years. Based on the development of new technologies and the information new discoveries are yielding, I believe we could recreate a mammoth within the next 5 to 10 years. But it is much more important to find ways of preserving existing elephant populations – cousins of the mammoth – as they will disappear too if we do not look after them.
What is the one thing you would like people to remember when they leave the exhibition?
I would like visitors to understand that the animals that disappeared from Earth 10,000 years ago are an important part of our history. By studying mammoths and other animals that lived long ago, we gain invaluable knowledge about the evolution of different species, the environment and climate change. All these subjects are of crucial importance to the biodiversity of our planet and to our own existence on Earth. If we do not study and learn and take action to protect this, we too will disappear – and sooner than you think!
March 29, 2012


ifc mall has specially collaborated with the Stephen Hui Geological Museum at the Department of Earth Sciences of The University of Hong Kong to arrange a series of guided tours from 16 April to 29 April. The tours, which will be led by experienced post-graduate museum guides, will help the public better understand the important facts and insights provided by this exhibition.

Date 16 April – 29 April, 2012
Mon to Fri: 4:00pm (For Pre-arranged School Tours)
Sat & Sun: 10:30am, 11:30am and 2:30pm (For Public)
How to participate
  1. School Tours
  2. Public Tours: Registration* starts at 9:30am at the Concierge, Podium Level 1 (near L'OCCITANE, Shop 1090) on the day of the tour. No advance booking required.
    *Places are limited, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Enquiry hotline: (852) 2295 3308.

Kids Work Sheet

This is a printable worksheet to accompany your visit to the exhibition. The activities in this worksheet include Colour Me In, Drawing Lyuba, and Quiz about Lyuba's Ice Age World, which encourage children and teenagers to look and feel while they walk around the exhibition.

Download Kids Work Sheet Download the Answers to the Quiz

  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    10 April 2012 Opening of Lyuba's Case
  • Tour snap shots
    12 April 2012 Exhibition Inauguration Ceremony
  • Tour snap shots
    12 April 2012 “I Love Lyuba: Baby Mammoth of the Ice Age” Exhibition
  • Tour snap shots
    12 April 2012 “I Love Lyuba: Baby Mammoth of the Ice Age” Exhibition
  • Tour snap shots
    12 April 2012 “I Love Lyuba: Baby Mammoth of the Ice Age” Exhibition
  • Tour snap shots
    12 April 2012 “I Love Lyuba: Baby Mammoth of the Ice Age” Exhibition

Lyuba in social media

  • Keep posted about Lyuba via ifc's social media portals
  • Share your drawing of Lyuba with kids in Siberia by posting it on Lyuba's Facebook page!

Extended Reading about Lyuba



Karen Chang, Globe Creative (Hong Kong)

Karen Chang co-founder of Globe Creative, has been working in the arts and cultural sector in Asia for over 10 years. Prior to forming the company, Karen was the first Chinese national to become Regional Managing Director and Founding Partner of two international public relations consultancies in Hong Kong.

With a passion to make art and culture accessible to all, Karen and co-founder Peter Cook embarked on designing and producing ground breaking projects that pushed the boundaries of the traditional museum world. Karen and her team are currently working on two new exhibitions for Asia which will debut 2013 and 2014.


Christopher Sloan, President and Co-founder of Science Visualization (US)

Chris Sloan is an award-winning art director and author who specializes in bringing non-visual scientific research to life for diverse audiences.

Prior to founding the company, he held posts at National Geographic Magazine from 1992 to 2010 as Art Director, Senior Editor, Archaeology and Paleontology Area Specialist, and Director of Mission Projects. Sloan has also written seven award-winning children's books for the National Geographic Society including Lyuba: Baby Mammoth Mummy Frozen in Time (2011). As a science communicator, he gives lectures and workshops to researchers, media professionals, and institutions about how to create more effective science communication through creative collaborations.


Bernard Buigues, Mammuthus Project (France)

Explorer and paleontologist Bernard Buigues is the director of the Mammuthus Project and Vice President of the Geneva-based International Mammoth Committee. He has been organizing expeditions to the North Pole and Siberia for more than two decades.

He has developed a logistical base at Khatanga in northern Siberia for launching high-latitude expeditions. His Mammuthus Project has been credited with two important discoveries in Siberia: the Jarkov and Yukagir mammoths. Through the International Mammoth Committee, Buigues assembles scientists from around the world to collaborate with Russian scholars and study a wide range of Pleistocene animals, including the baby mammoths Lyuba, Khroma, and Yuka – all of whom are detailed in the ifc mall exhibition.

Mr. Sergey Grishin, Director, Shemanovsly Museum (Russia)

Since October 2002, Sergey Grishin has been Director of the Shemanovsky Yamal- Nenets Museum and Exhibition Centre at Salekhard, in the Yamal- Nenets Autonomous District, Siberia. He is the author of several publications on the development of museums in the District. He also strives to bring the history and unique cultural traditions of the people and past of the Russian Arctic to a wide audience through travelling museum exhibits and cultural and economic exchange events.

Dr. Zhonghe Zhou, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropolgy, Chinese Academy of Sciences (China)

Dr. Zhou is the Director at the Institute. He is an expert on the origin and early evolution of birds, feathered dinosaurs and flying reptiles called pterosaurs. He carries out many investigations on fossils from North Eastern China that date to 133 to 120 million years ago. These fossils are part of an ancient ecosystem known as the Jehol Biota which is known for excellent fossil preservation.

Dr. Haowen Tong, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropolgy, Chinese Academy of Sciences (China)

Dr. Tong is a Professor at the Institute and is an expert on the evolution and environment of prehistoric animals living from about 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. He is particularly interested in large animals, such as rhinoceroses and mammoths, that lived during this period and in their relationships with humans.