Mammoth skeleton to be displayed in Santa Barbara
From the primordial ooze to a hillside in Moorpark to a temperature-controlled basement in Santa Ana, the Pleistocene-era pachyderm made her final journey this week to Santa Barbara. The Moorpark Mammoth, the second most complete southern mammoth skeleton in North America, is now at its permanent home at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. "This is sort of the final journey for her," said Hugh Riley, Moorpark's assistant city manager. "But this is the beginning of a relationship between the city of Moorpark and the Santa Barbara museum." Riley has spearheaded the promotion of the southern mammoth, whom he calls "Emma," to be an educational tool in connection with Moorpark. The City Council voted to donate Emma to the museum in July. Mammoths, not dinosaurs, ruled in Southern California. The mammoth is dated to have walked the Earth from 750,000 to 800,000 years ago, before humans were around. And, if one museum curator has his way, Emma and her life in the Early Pleistocene era will be displayed prominently in the museum. "These are our dinosaurs," said Paul Collins, a curator and vertebrate zoologist at the museum. "Moorpark didn't want to see them go to some dusty shelves in some museum, and neither do we."We're hoping to make it a centerpiece," he said. Collins has worked at the museum almost 35 years and wants children to be able to stand close and in awe of the size of the Moorpark Mammoth. With 8-foot-long tusks, and standing 12 to 13 feet high, the skeleton was carefully unloaded in boxes. It might be a four- to five-year process to get the southern mammoth on display in the paleontology exhibit area, although Collins is not sure if the actual bones or an exact replica will be displayed. He said next summer an exhibit might be created to showcase aspects of the dig surrounding Emma's unearthing. It is the end of a two-year process for Moorpark that began when the skeleton was found during construction of a housing development north of downtown. Emma, or "Big M," as some folks call her, was discovered in March 2005. The skeleton was excavated over five days and since then has been housed at Paleo Environmental Associates Inc. in Santa Ana. The Moorpark Mammoth arrived at the gates of the Santa Barbara museum to much fanfare and media attention on Oct. 9. The trucking company is named after her species. Mammoth Moving and Storage donated its services to move the skeleton from Santa Ana to Santa Barbara. Parts of a Columbian mammoth were also found in the Moorpark excavation, as well as other fossils, including a Western horse, a large-headed llama, a rabbit, a kangaroo rat and other rodent ancestors. They will also be used in a display at the museum. There is an understanding that the city of Moorpark will continue to help in the promotion and exhibition of Emma.