Cloning Wild Life: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of Endangered Animals

Cloning Wild Life: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of Endangered Animals

Cloning Wild Life: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of Endangered Animals

Cloning Wild Life: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of Endangered Animals

Synopsis

"In this brilliant study of cloned wild life, Carrie Friese adds a whole new dimension to the study of reproduction, illustrating vividly and persuasively how social and biological reproduction are inextricably bound together, and why this matters."- Sarah Franklin, author ofnbsp;Dolly Mixtures: the Remaking of Genealogynbsp; nbsp; The natural world is marked by an ever-increasing loss of varied habitats, a growing number of species extinctions, and a full range of new kinds of dilemmas posed by global warming. At the same time, humans are also working to actively shape this natural world through contemporary bioscience and biotechnology. Innbsp;Cloning Wild Life, Carrie Friese posits that cloned endangered animals in zoos sit at the apex of these two trends, as humans seek a scientific solution to environmental crisis. Often fraught with controversy, cloning technologies, Friese argues, significantly affect our conceptualizations of and engagements with wildlife and nature. nbsp; By studying animals at different locations, Friese explores the human practices surrounding the cloning of endangered animals. She visits zoos- the San Diego Zoological Park, the Audubon Center in New Orleans, and the Zoological Society of London- to see cloning and related practices in action, as well as attending academic and medical conferences and interviewing scientists, conservationists, and zookeepers involved in cloning. Ultimately, she concludes that the act of recalibrating nature through science is what most disturbs us about cloning animals in captivity, revealing that debates over cloning become, in the end, a site of political struggle between different human groups.nbsp; Moreover, Friese explores the implications of the social role that animals at the zoo play in the first place- how they are viewed, consumed, and used by humans for our own needs. A unique study uniting sociology and the study of science and technology,nbsp;Cloning Wild Lifenbsp;demonstrates just how much bioscience reproduces and changes our ideas about the meaning of life itself. nbsp; Carrie Friesenbsp;is Lecturer in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Excerpt

In November 2000 a cloned, endangered bovine was born on an industrial-sized farm in Iowa. Named “Noah,” this gaur was created through an interspecies modification in the somatic cell nuclear transfer process, or what is more popularly referred to as cloning. Rather than use scarce gaur eggs in this cloning experiment, researchers from Advanced Cell Technology instead used surplus eggs from domestic cows. Retrieved from a local slaughterhouse, the common genes found in the nucleus of the cow eggs were removed so that the rare DNA in gaur bodily cells could be transferred in. Ultimately forty-four of these novel embryos were shipped to Trans Ova Genetics, a company in Iowa that uses assisted reproductive technologies to selectively breed cattle as part of the beef and dairy industries. Here the embryos were transferred into domestic cows, who acted as the gestational surrogates for their endangered gaur counterparts. In the end, one gaur was born as a result of this experiment in interspecies cloning. Sadly, Noah died just days after birth. But if he had survived, this gaur would have moved from Trans Ova Genetics to the San Diego Zoo in order to become the world’s first cloned animal on display in a zoological park.

Amidst high-profile controversies regarding human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research in the wake of Dolly the Sheep, the popular press reported rather positively on the world’s first cloned endangered animal. Indeed, one of the surprising facets of this and subsequent endangered animal cloning projects has been the relatively high level of public support for such endeavors. Critics of cloning publicly conceded that even the most nefarious of biotechnologies could find good use. And public opinion polls showed that the American public supported this use of cloning over any other. Reproducing endangered animals is generally met with high levels of support, as conservation . . .

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