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Should We Be Bringing Extinct Species Back?

Illustration for article titled Should We Be Bringing Extinct Species Back?

Interesting article on Salon about the various groups and agencies that are taking advantage of new, cutting-edge technology in order to try and re-create lost species. http://www.salon.com/2013/09/01/get…

It may sound like science fiction, but it has already been successful in at least one limited case: an extinct Pyrenean Ibex was born, but only lived for a few minutes because of lung problems. They're going to keep trying, and they'll probably eventually succeed.

On one hand, there's an inevitable cool factor. Who wouldn't want to see a living, breathing woolly mammoth? And in some sense it clicks into the notion of righting a historical wrong—we were responsible for the extinction of most of these species, in whole or in part. We killed them all, and "fixing" that feels like a kind of justice.

But what do we do with live mammoths? Their gestation and maturation period is long, and they were social animals. Is the intention to release them into the Siberian tundra, or merely create circus attractions that people will pay to see? I sense the latter, frankly. And though I suspect I'd be one of the ones queuing up, it's not entirely savory.

The Passenger Pigeon seems a much more likely candidate. Huge areas of its original habitat are still relatively viable, the life cycle of birds is fast, and they reproduce prolifically. They've been off the scene for a century, but they had a genuine place in the ecosystem in fairly recent times, before they were slaughtered by the tens of millions.

And much as I'd love a world where Steller's Sea Cows roamed the oceans, I'm afraid it would be a matter of spending huge resources that could be better spent in, say, taking care of the habitats of animals that are on the cusp now. Saving blue whales from ship strikes, that kind of thing. But that's a little less flashy, isn't it?


What say you? Good idea, or waste of resources? Or both?

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