Cloning? It's the Least Mankind Can Do to Stop Species Dying Out

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), October 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Cloning? It's the Least Mankind Can Do to Stop Species Dying Out


Byline: ANALYSIS By David Derbyshire

THE notion that cloning could prevent the extinction of endangered species feels like the stuff of Jurassic Park. For many people it will raise the spectre of Frankenstein-style scientists meddling with the forces of nature and unleashing untold horrors on the world.

But while cloning humans is rightly the stuff of nightmares, any attempt to use cloning technology for conservation must surely be applauded.

According to conservative estimates, between 200 and 2,000 species annually become extinct while 23,000 are critically endangered, mostly thanks to mankind's activities.

So many species are vanishing that conservationists say we are going through the Earth's sixth mass extinction - and the worst since the dinosaurs died 65 million years ago.

Seen in that light, cloning the odd panda, rhino or snow leopard seems the least mankind can do. Scientists have debated cloning endangered animals ever since Dolly was unveiled. Since Dolly, scientists have cloned more than a dozen species - including cattle, dogs, deer, cats, goats, mice, rats, rabbits and horses.

But scientists have also cloned half a dozen endangered mammals, including the Pyrenean Ibex and wild coyotes.

While the first cloned giant panda is many years away, its addition to these ranks would be a fine achievement. But there is a caveat - cloning remains difficult and unpredictable.

Far more animals' clones have died before birth than survived, while the survival rate after birth has been low. …

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