The de-extinction club: Scientists plot to restore the Tasmanian tiger and other extinct species

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A thylacine, also known as a Tasmanian tiger, in captivity in the early 20th century. Credit: Popperfoto/Getty Images
A thylacine, also known as a Tasmanian tiger, in captivity in the early 20th century. Credit: Popperfoto/Getty Images

[Paleontologist Michael Archer] is part of the “de-extinction club”: a growing group of scientists working to harness genetic engineering and cloning to reach into the past – and resurrect extinct animals. Top of the list are the thylacine and the woolly mammoth. 

Archer and others say the unnatural pace of climate change and habitat destruction mean bringing back key species may now be the only way to stop ecosystems from collapsing. Harvard University’s renowned geneticist George Church, himself working to return the mammoth to the Arctic tundra, says reviving some species could even help combat the effects of global warming. 

But others, such as [ecologist Euan] Ritchie, warn that it might put the wild in jeopardy all over again, or pull vital focus from the urgent work underway to save those species we do have left.

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Archer argues that conventional conservation efforts “aren’t cutting the mustard” and the time has come for extraordinary intervention – an ark of sorts. “Normally, nature fills the vacancies from a big extinction event like this. But we’re not leaving any room for that this time. So we’re really in uncharted territory. And we have to be smart.” 

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