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Harvard Scientists Are Trying to Resurrect the Woolly Mammoth Through Cloning. Is De-extinction Plausible?

Representative image.

Representative image.

Scientists are trying to develop a new cross-species animal between the mammoth and the Asian elephant, which is their closest relative. De-extinction could also be a way to save and improve some ecosystems.

Animal cloning has been a topic of widespread controversy and discussions alike and a recent successful milestone by a group of scientists in the United States of America. A team of scientists were able to successfully clone an endangered ferret, that was thought to have been gone extinct in the 80s. A black-footed ferret was birthed from the preserved genes of an animal, Willa that had died more than 30 years ago. Christened Elizabeth Ann, the ferret will be living in a Colorado facility. Through this, scientists are now aiming to have diverse population of ferrets.

However, scientists have often debated on the pros and cons of such genetically designed animals which are thought to be a way to save endangered species. Critics have always maintained that the procedure is very expensive and complicated, not to mention scientists say that often these animals have some sort of clinical problem.

Now a team at Harvard University are working on bringing back the woolly mammoth. So is that really possible? In order to do so, scientists need to be able to secure well-preserved remains of such animals in order to be able to revive a healthy set of mammoths. But it is near impossible to do so.

So what is the way around this? What the scientists are trying to do with this particular project is develop a new cross-species animal between the mammoth and the Asian elephant, which is their closest relative. De-extinction could also be a way to save and improve some ecosystems. The new species will have the characteristic traits of mammoths, thus making it feasible for them to live in northern regions. They could impact and scrape layers of snow, helping it to get inside the soil and which will in turn help tp slow down melting of northern permafrost, stopping global warming, says Revive and Restore, a non-profit aiming to resurrect endangered and extinct species.

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But that is nothing without its cons. Professor William Holt, of the University of Sheffield told Euronews, “I think it’s a bit questionable as to whether it’s possible to resurrect a species and expect it to be able to live happily and restore the environment back to what it was millions of years ago.”

Also, the question arises, according to Holt is that what is the purpose of having just one mammoth. It needs an effective habitat and also there is the question of its functionality and interaction with other animals.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also has stringent rules and terms for what can be classified as a species and a new species with cross DNA might just become another endangered species.