Why Resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth is Not Such a Good Idea

Woolly Mammoths

A group of researchers think bringing the woolly mammoth back from the dead is not such a good idea.

A group of researchers think that bringing back from the dead long-extinct animals such as the woolly mammoth through genetic engineering might not be such a good idea. Scientists at University of California in Santa Barbara argue that de-extinction techniques may in fact harm conservation efforts in the long run.

The conversation thus far has been focused on whether or not we can do this. Now, we are progressing toward the: ‘Holy crap, we can—so should we?’ phase,

said UC ecologist Douglas McCauley, who was not involved in the research.

McCauley compared the Harvard-led effort to bring the woolly mammoth back to life to a scene in the Frankenstein movies in which the monster has all the stitches set in place but the doctor has a moment of hesitation to “flip the switch and electrify the thing to life”.

The research team says that the ethics is not the only argument against de-extinction. The costs are mind-numbing. Current studies take into account only the estimated costs to preserve the resurrected animals, which would be similar to the ones needed to care for the nearly-extinct Asian elephant.

These studies don’t include the large costs associated with the bioengineering technologies needed to actually bring back from the dead the species.

Scientists have envisioned two scenarios: one in which the funds for such an endeavor come from the federal government, and another one in which private entities provide the money.

In the first scenario, the government will have to cut the funds from other conservation programs to be able to sustain the resurrected population. As a result, humanity will lose a lot of biodiversity – to be more exact, two other species would perish for every one that is resurrected.

In the second scenario, the situation is not as grim. Private interests could provide enough funding to resurrect, preserve the long-extinct species without taking a toll on existing biodiversity. In this scenario, we could in fact experience a slight boost in biodiversity.

However, when we take a look at the big picture we’ll see that even in this case we could save a lot more species with private funds if we spend all the resources on existing species than on resurrecting long-gone ones. So, resurrecting extinct species doesn’t pay off in either scenario.

The findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Image Source: Wikimedia

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