Editorial: Resurrecting the woolly mammoth

The frozen remains of the woolly mammoth discovered in Siberia in May 2013 may provide the platform for a never-before-done experiment

The frozen remains of the woolly mammoth discovered in Siberia in May 2013 may provide the platform for a never-before-done  experiment — bringing back to life an extinct animal species.

The well-preserved mammoth was discovered buried in the ice. What made the body so remarkable was that after it thawed, researchers discovered the flesh was bright red when they cut into it. They also discovered a pocket of liquid blood near the belly,  as well as more reddish goo in the carcass that appeared to contain red blood cells.

A South Korean company called Sooam Biotech Research Foundation took some blood and muscle samples back with them to Seoul in hopes of cloning the mammoth, and CBC has followed up to find out more.

If you’ve already come across the story, you’ll know that Sooam has some experience in cloning. The company offers to clone customers’ dead pet dogs, and claims to have cloned coyotes. The same process would mean a cell from the mammoth will be injected into the egg of a donor then carried by a surrogate mother, the donor and mother likely being Asian elephants, as they’re the most genetically similar to woolly mammoths — the last of which is estimated to have roamed the earth roughly 4,000 years ago.

Those who support reverse extinction or de-extinction argue humans are morally obligated to bring back species whose extinction is human-caused. What a lovely sentiment — until one considers that ongoing poaching of elephants, which kills an estimated 35,000 elephants each year, means that the two species of elephants that are currently living — Asian and African — could  potentially be wiped out within two decades.  Not to fault the progress of science, but considering the environment into which Sooam would be introducing its new creation,  resurrecting the woolly mammoth isn’t exactly ethical until the behaviour that caused its extinction in the first place is dealt with.

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