Creatures
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Creatures

Perspective Piece

Should We Clone Extinct Animals?

Is it money, genetics, or ethics? Why haven’t we started cloning extinct animals?

Image by Geran De Klerk on Unsplash

“Why can’t we just clone extinct animals and bring them back to life?” With the recent death of the last northern white Rhino, scientists and animal lovers all around the world are starting to consider this solution seriously. A straightforward solution is challenging to explain. Let me walk you through the difficult process of cloning and why cloning extinct species might not be the best idea just yet.

Let’s start with a basic term: “De-extinction”. De-extinction is the modern term scientists use when referring to bringing animals back that are already extinct. It’s like when you accidentally delete your final semester essay, freak out for two minutes, and then realize you could just press the “undo” button. Except, with animals, it’s not that easy. There are three methods to de-extinct an animal, but since I don’t want to bore you with all the details, we’ll get straight to the “Cloning”.

Cloning”, is the process of creating a genetically identical copy of a cell or an organism. The term was made relatively popular when the movie “Jurassic Park” came out in the early nineties. Cloning, in the real world, occurs more often than you think; for example, when bacteria produce an identical copy of themselves using asexual reproduction (only one parent is needed for reproduction).

Now, let’s get to the juicy questions: have scientists ever cloned animals? Yes. Almost 25 years ago in 1994, Ian Wilmut, an experienced embryologist, managed to clone a lamb known as “Dolly”. Although she lived half of her normal life, Dolly was the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult lamb cell. Was it hard to clone Dolly? Yes. It took the scientists 29 early embryos being developed, 277 cell fusions, and 148 days to successfully produce the cloning. That’s right! more than four months just to clone a single sheep, now imagine the time it would take to clone an entire species of extinct animals, a whole lot.

Image from howstuffworks.com “How Cloning Works”

But that was twenty-five years ago right? Surely we must be able to clone extinct species easily nowadays. Well, you might want to take a look at this: A list of all cloned animals failed tries, and published genome sequences.

Image from Springer.com “Resuscitation and resurrection: The ethics of cloning cheetahs, mammoths, and Neanderthals”

As you can see, there have many cloning experiments that have either failed or succeeded, yet there has only been one experiment on an extinct species. This is the Pyrenean Ibex, a Mountain Goat which used to live in the Northern part of Spain and France. The Ibex’s DNA was implanted into fifty-seven surrogate mothers, but only one of those mothers managed to give birth to the clone. Despite being the first extinct mammal to be brought back to life, the 4.5-pound clone only managed to survive for a mere ten minutes before dying due to respiratory problems. So as you can tell, cloning an extinct animal isn’t too easy to do.

Yet, to even get to cloning an animal, you need to finance your project first. This takes us to the next little detail: Money.

According to Market Watch, it takes $85,000 to clone a horse, $50,000 to clone a dog, and $35,000 to clone a cat. Despite the 66.66% price drop from the initial $150,000 dog cloning fee in 2008, the price is still quite high. Now, considering the cloning price of a single dog, imagine trying to bring back to life a whole pack of Mountain Goats. That’s not going to work anytime soon.

Another problem with cloning would be the variety of DNA samples taken from the extinct species. There would have to be numerous samples to properly bring back a species from the dead. “Why?” you may ask yourself. Well, it’s as simple as this; certain people have more immunologic weaknesses than others, this is because everyone has a different DNA. That’s partly why only 3/100 people die to Covid-19. Now imagine a similar virus spreading throughout a species where every animal has the same genetic composition; instead of 3/100, the mortality rate would be 100/100.

Now, just for a second, imagine if all the requirements that we just talked about were met. Even then, we would still be missing quite an important variable: Ethics. Experts are still debating whether De-extinction is the correct way to go.

On one side, De-extinction advocates say that since we caused the extinction of those animals, we should be the ones that bring them back. Ben Novak, ecologist and head of the “passenger pigeon project” at Revive & Restore argues that bringing back extinct species is all about “ecological restoration and function”. For example, the Wooly Mammoth, an animal that went extinct almost 4000 years ago, could improve the soil quality of the Tundra like it once did during the last ice age.

On the other side, some people believe that even if scientists somehow managed to bring back a whole species of animals, humans would just find another way to make them extinct again. They argue that the real problem that we have to fix resides in society itself. We may be able to bring them back to life a million times, yet the arrogance, greed, and thrust for power in human nature would naturally cause their extinction over and over again. Animalists also argue that cloning efforts would just take away funding from current conservation efforts.

No matter the choice you make, we need to respect the lives of the animals that exist now. Even if we don’t end up cloning extinct animals, you can still do something to help the ones that are suffering today. Get informed, find solutions, and share them with everyone you know; it's not about finding solutions for future problems, it’s about solving the ones we have now.

“The future depends on what you do today”- Mahatma Gandhi

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Bruno Rojas Lopez

-Passionate for Wildlife! |Lover of Sports |Big fan of Hypebeast Fashion |Starwars Addict| Love traveling. Contact me: bruno.rojas1972@yahoo.com