Scientists’ Debate: Resurrect or Save Species?

With much research and funds, scientists have discovered ways to to revive extinct species. By splicing DNA of extinct animals and current living ancestors, it may be possible to resurrect animals that gone extinct thousands of years ago. However, there is an on going debate about the subject. Does one allocate those funds to resurrecting extinct animals or saving the animals that are close to extinction? The debate has recently caused a split in the scientific community.

A paper recently published in Nature Ecology & Evolution states that researchers believe that costs and benefits never favor de-extinction.

Joseph Bennett, an assistant professor and conservation researcher at Carleton University in Ontario, has been leading a team of researchers to confront this debated topic. He told The New York Times, “If you have the millions of dollars it would take to resurrect a species and choose to do that, you are making an ethical decision to bring one species back and let several others go extinct. It would be one step forward, and three to eight steps back.”

Greeningz - Woolly Mammoth

Bennet and his team have also conducted studies on the costs of re-establishing and maintaining several species that have gone extinct from New Zealand. They concluded that funds required to conserve 11 extinct species would protect 3 times as many that are currently living.

However, there are many out there who do not agree with this paper or Dr. Bennett’s findings. For example, the non-profit “Revive & Restore”. The mission of Revive & Restore, according to their website, is to “enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species.” The group is already working towards resurrecting the passenger pigeon, woolly mammoth and heath hen [all pictured].

Greeningz - Passenger Pigeon

Ben Novak, Revive & Restore’s lead researcher and science consultant, believes that Dr. Bennett’s arguments are flawed. He believes there is no direct evidence that funding for the conservation of living animals would decrease, as all of Revive & Restore’s research is funded by private donations. Stewart Brand, co-founder of Revive & Restore, also insists that many of the species Dr. Bennett chose to study are species that may not be even considered for extinction.

Greeningz - Heath Hen

There are great pros and cons for both side of the arguments. The biggest pro is being able to correct humanity’s mistakes and bring back animals that became extinct to due human error. The largest con, of course, is loss of current animals. In the end, both sides have strong arguments, but hopefully with enough funding and technological advancements both sides of saving and resurrecting animals will win.