A few years back, cloning was something that we saw only in sci-fi movies and maybe laughed it away thinking, “what a daft idea?” Even Jurassic Park, remember? The extinct dinosaurs were all brought alive through cloning, genetic re-engineering. We know how the movie ended yet in real life, cloning of once extinct animals is catching steam. The Tasmanian wolf, the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial died out in its native land sometime during the 1930s but through cloning, they are now back to life. Recently in Cape Town, the quagga, which is a cousin of the zebra, went extinct some 100 years ago, has now been revived. They said that they did some ‘reverse engineering.’
Well, the thing is, you cannot play God. We can most certainly recreate anything that looks exactly similar to an extinct animal but genetic disposition’s like behavior and animal ecology cannot be created by humans. If an clone can survive in sterile atmosphere but dies the moment it is left in the open, what is the point of this exercise then.
Genetic re-engineering of extinct animals raises very disturbing question - How far should we go to reverse the tide of extinction? And what ecological and ethical issues might this raise? We can revive the dead but should we?
Instead of trying to become God, we need to fix the main drivers of extinction, namely habitat loss, conflict with humans, overhunting, invasive species and climate change. Trying to bring species back is specious, pointless, and diverts precious resources away from trying to conserve extant species. Can we fix these extinction drivers? Probably not, not at all!
And where are these zombie species going to live? Introducing them back into the wild these days would be the equivalent of introducing an invasive species. Surely we all would love to see a living mammoth again, but once the novelty wears off, what would it achieve? Think and do write in your thoughts.