Scientists, supporters of the revival of extinct animals, plan to prevent the extinction of species with the help of genetic engineering, and in some cases they even plan to revive an extinct animal. But what to do with a woolly mammoth?
One of the recent losses in the animal world is the male of the northern white rhino named Sudan. He died in the reserve in 2018 in Kenya. The population of the second largest mammal after an elephant was exterminated in the wild by the middle of the 20th century.
With the death of Sudan, the subspecies almost died out. Now the fate of the northern white rhinos depends on the Petri dish: science could save them, because there are two more females and frozen sperm. German scientists have developed a technology that will allow to get a baby northern white rhino. And thus it is supposed to restore the nearly extinct animal population.
But some researchers go even further in trying to preserve the biodiversity of the Earth, trying to revive animals that have become extinct thousands of years or a century ago. For example, in Harvard and California universities (USA), they are planning to revive a woolly mammoth, which died out 10 thousand years ago, or a passenger pigeon, the last representative of which died in the zoo in 1914, using genetic engineering.
But the opinion of the scientific world on this issue is divided: is it about the conservation of species or the intervention in nature?
George Church and his team from Harvard University extract certain parts of the mammoth's genome DNA and insert them into elephant cells. Thus, it will not be a mammoth, but a completely new animal. "We are trying to create an elephant that is resistant to cold," Church says. “We can reduce the size of tusks to minimize the risk of poaching."
On the west coast of the USA, Ben Novak wants to resurrect a passenger pigeon in the same way.
“We want to use biotechnology to help preserve nature and increase biodiversity,” said Ryan Phelan, director of the Revive & Restore organization, which supports projects to revive a mammoth and a passenger pigeon.
But many scientists do not share the optimism of colleagues. “It's a waste of time,” says evolutionary biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University (USA). According to him, it is possible to protect species from extinction by solving a serious problem - the attitude of people to animals. “If you can eliminate and then revive a breed, then you are not so concerned about its preservation in the wild,” he sneers, and then asks: “And what would we do with the woolly mammoth now?”
Church already has an answer to this question, or rather an idea. He wants to settle the mammoth elephant in Yakutia. Thus, he believes, on a huge, barely populated territory of Russia, an ecosystem could appear for a new species of animal. Moreover, Church believes that the mammoths "would help slow down climate change": by tamping down the snow, they would thus restrain the rapid thawing of the soil. This means that the atmosphere gets lesser greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Russian scientist Nikita Zimov, head of the Pleistocene Park in northeastern Yakutia, is looking forward to newcomers: "Church promised that the first mammoth will come to the Pleistocene Park." However, he says, one animal is not enough in the fight against climate change - we need thousands, hundreds of thousands of animals.