The question “how far should we go to bring back a lost species?” opens a deeper discussion that requires us to consider what kind of world we want now and for the future. In answering, I am considering the world of nature and envisioning the distant future, the one we think of the least. Five or ten thousand years almost encompasses the depth of human history, and we now recognize our actions will impact planetary biodiversity over the next five to ten thousand years. With increasing capability, we are altering the future of life on Earth and are gaining vast new ways of doing so. We must consider what we want going forward.
An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. A US team is already attempting to study the animals’ characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells. They want to find out what made the mammoths different from their modern relatives and how their adaptations helped them survive the ice ages. The new genome study has been published in the journal Current Biology.
World-leading biologist Stephen O’Brien, currently in New Zealand, has looked at the DNA extracted from blood, feathers and saliva of threatened animals for almost four decades. The information has helped conservationists to anticipate the hidden dangers, such as inbreeding and disease, that could wipe a species out.
Whanganui Regional Museum natural history curator Dr Mike Dickison said resurrecting the moa in areas such as the Dart River Valley near Wanaka where they once thrived, could be vital to the survival of New Zealand’s remaining native bush.
Sea World’s reproductive center has succeeded in delivering the world’s first penguin chick as a result of artificial insemination. This is a promising development in helping to rebuild populations of endangered penguin species and is a big step forward in the perfection of techniques essential to the de-extinction of the moa.
The Long Now Foundation’s Revive & Restore project represents the most cohesive and formal effort to restore extinct species. The Moa is on the projects list of potentially revivable species. The best chance of turning the dream of Moa de-extinction into a reality may well lie with the scientists and other visionaries affiliated with with the project.
There are growing signs of support in New Zealand for an attempt at reviving the Moa. Trevor Mallard a prominent New Zealand politician brought the issue firmly to the attention of the mainstream media by giving a presentation at a development conference in Lower Hutt recently.