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Bringing Animals Back From Extinction Comes With Controversy

Scientists from around the world have started to develop ways of bringing previously extinct animals back to life. They use methods such as cloning and selective breeding. Cloning is done by taking saved specimens of DNA from the extinct animals and using the most similar species as a surrogate parent.

Selective breeding is the process of taking teeth and bone fragments, and finding the genetically closest fellow animal, continuously breeding the animal so the extinct animal is revived. Both methods have come up against opposition as it is thought that the time and resources spent on this would be better used by helping conserve the endangered species currently on earth. It's also said that the animal would not have the same species of parents, so arguably its behaviors may not be the same as the extinct animal. It is an interesting endeavor to think about because many of the animals that have gone extinct were wiped out decades/centuries ago. Here are four of the animals that they are trying to de-extinct.

Moa

 

Joseph Smit / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

 

The moa were nine species of flightless bird that ranged from 4 feet tall to 12 feet tall; they were around about 600 years ago and went extinct in 1440. The bird is a strong candidate for de-extinction because there is a lot of substantial samples left and animals alive which have similar genetic codes to the moa. Although many crypto-zoologists still believe the large flightless bird is alive today — it's a Bigfoot thing — but at least we know moas existed at one point. These birds were quite a lot larger than ostriches and it's hard to even imagine them walking around. The New Zealand government think they will be able to revive a smaller moa in fifty years.

Woolly mammoth

 

Jennifer Carole / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

 

One of the most famous of all the extinct animals and an interesting candidate for revival is the woolly mammoth whom has been extinct for 4,000 years. Scientists have looked into both cloning and selective breeding with woolly mammoths, but because of the conditions in which they were preserved it's hard to find suitable specimens. Although George. M. Church of Harvard University has successfully copied woolly mammoth genes into the genome of an Asian elephant. The genes were finally active for the first time since the species became extinct; it is still being looked into and has not yet been confirmed by peers. It is of strong opinion that resurrecting this species would not be a sensible idea; it is logistically complicated considering the lack of habitat left appropriate for this species. As their name suggests they are mammoths and therefore creating even a few would see the need for more space than there is and more resources. It has been stated that these efforts should be used to help elephant breeds that are endangered. 

Pyrenean ibex

 

Javier Garcia Diz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The Pyrenean ibex was last alive in 2000 and since then many attempts to de-extinct this animal have occurred. The female ibex that died in January 2000 had a known cause of death but it is still not determined why the whole species died. It is theorized that maybe competition for food, disease and poaching were big factors it not being able to thrive in the environment. In 2009, the first animal was de-extinct; nine years after the last Pyrenean ibex was alive they actually revived one for seven minutes, unfortunately though the calf had lung defects. Defects with cloning are very common and this leads to questions of ethics within de-extinction. It's quite viable though that they could revive this species because of the lack of time and the fact they have done it once before, even if only for a small amount of time. 

Dodo

 

Ballista / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Maybe the most famous extinct animal ever is the dodo. This is a strong contender when discussing de-extinction because of its popularity and cult following. The dodo was an isolated animal, not living among other species therefore like other extinct animals it was completely fearless of humans and would happily engage with humans. The dodo being a flightless bird led it to be an easy target for sailors who would come to Mauritius. It's still thought though, that it was not humans alone that led to the extinction of dodos; the introduced species of rats and pigs who ate their eggs was a big factor. The dodo has a close relative who is alive today — the nicobar pigeon — and that is why the possibility of their revival is current.

Do you think it is a good idea to bring these extinct animals back to life? It is a thought provoking idea, but there are questions of habitat to worry about and it is ethically a little muddled. There are animals on the earth now that are endangered, the efforts and resources should be used to save them. 

By Fay Partridge

Fay Partridge is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Frontier has over 300 dedicated conservation and community development projects as well as plenty of inspiring gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information on all the opportunities available please visit www.frontier.ac.uk. Check out Frontier's blog "Into the Wild" where you can read more articles like this! Happy reading!

Get more from us on social media with FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. See more from volunteers on YouTubeFlickr and Instagram #FrontierVolunteer.

 

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