Have you ever wished to see a real, living animal species that went extinct? You know it is logically impossible, yet people still hope that someday technology will change this “wish” into a reality. In fact, resurrection technology has developed enough to bring extinct animals back to life. Now, it is just a matter of what and when, not how.
Throughout my entire life, I was always interested in watching or reading numerous movies, drama, or books about fictitious or extinct animal species being introduced to the current world. When I was little, I always dreamed of being one of the characters in these stories. For example, after watching the movie Jurassic World, I dreamed of a realistic Jurassic island, where you could observe all the dinosaurs that went extinct millions of years ago. Although I have always been watching this movie as a fantasy story, it is not an exaggeration to say that these fantasy stories will turn into non-fictional
Earth is currently in the middle of its sixth mass extinction. Since 1500, the Earth has lost more than 300 types of animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. People were always concerned about animal species permanently dying out everyday (Species Revival). When one dies, the whole ecosystem could collapse, leading to another extinction.
But what if extinction of species is temporary? Meaning we can bring those species back into life?
Scientists have always been researching on de-extinction, process of biologically resurrecting extinct species to heal harms which humans have inflicted on the ecosystem. Though the process ‘de-extinction’ was believed impractical, new advances have been developed to bring resurrection of animals into reality. In the past, de-extinction was seen technologically impossible and would never be considered as one of the ways to improve environmental conditions. However, recently, while the extinction never improves, the world has raised the possibility of animal resurrection.
De-extinction was developed not for tourism purposes, but more to do with ecology. “The goals have to be about ecological restoration and function.” (“Should we bring”) claims Ben Novak, the leading researcher on passenger pigeon. People hope process of resurrecting animals will bring back the ‘best’ environment for native species to survive in their habitats.
Recently, ecologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, introduced possible candidate species which are believed to bring benefits when brought back to life. The two of the candidates are the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon. When these two went extinct, their habitats altered drastically, leading more extinctions within their habitat. In case of the woolly mammoth, their habitat transformed from green grasslands to the opposite, tundra. Reviving the mammoth, Harvard University’s George Church says, will slowly help change the climate by shifting the lands back toward the grasslands (Should we bring).
In 2009, a cloning experiment to resurrect extinct Pyrenean ibex was first successfully achieved by scientists. Though the animal died from non-functioning organs within minutes after being born, succession sparked hope for the practicability of this method (Britannica De-extinction).
On the other hand, critics claim that de-extinction of animals will cause more problems than benefits it brings, since introducing or reintroducing new species will always come with risks. For instance, in terms of population, some scientists/ecologists are concerned about the fact that for some animal species, it will be difficult to keep control of their numbers. “The spread of genes can be difficult to control. We probably won’t lose track of mammoths in Siberia, but what about rats? It becomes hard to control those sorts of populations,” Philip Seddon, from University of Otago states. “And there are the same fears one might have about genetically modified crops—the idea that a modification may move into relatives, may jump in and out, or may not be expressed in the way that you expect” (Should we bring). Before developing, it is critical to know that there are few disadvantages that prevent scientists from completing the task. In addition, those animals that were brought back to life will be considered endangered. This suggests those species will require care and observations for several decades or even centuries. This will require a huge amount of cost, which is more effective if used for other possible solutions to resolve the environmental issue (Britannica De-extinction).
We were, and still are hoping that someday developed technology will grant our wishes. However, we may have missed out the point that nothing comes with complete advantages, and will always include negative, and inevitable aspects. In contrast, in order to keep the life of species on Earth, which we may have completely destroyed, developing the process of de-extinction will bring demerits, yet advantages are worth more than its negatives. Additionally, the possibility of succession is undoubtedly higher than any other possible solutions proposed. For this reason, people, including scientists, must encourage and support de-extinction to achieve our goal; help bring back the environment best suited for native animals.