Leading article: Conservation comes in many forms

Share
Related Topics

Conservationists tend to be a conservative lot, so it is hardly a surprise to learn that some zoologists dedicated to the preservation of animal species get prickly about the idea of using cloning and other reproductive technology to save their beloved wildlife. Quite naturally, and logically, they argue that it is nonsense to devote time and effort to preserving a species in a test tube if its habitat is being ruthlessly trashed in a way that makes life impossible in the wild. They would also point out that cloning is, by its very nature, the antithesis of sexual reproduction, which is nature's way of creating the wondrous genetic diversity that comes from mixing genes between males and females. Cloning, they would argue, does little to stop the relentless drainage of the world's dwindling gene pool.

Many scientists, however, disagree with this interpretation. They believe that the rate of species extinction around the world is now becoming so severe, and proceeding so fast, that every scientific tool available must now be employed to conserve the planet's wildlife and its genetic resources. Of course, the absolute priority should be to conserve natural habitats. But it is clear that this approach is failing in many parts of the world.

The jungle habitat of the northern white rhino in the Congo, for instance, is being ravaged by conflict, and the species has almost certainly become extinct in the wild, with the help of high-powered rifles. The few remaining northern white rhinos held in zoos have now been returned to a captive-breeding refuge in southern Africa, after breeding failures in zoos elsewhere. It makes sense to exploit what we know about mammalian reproduction, and the new techniques of induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells, to see whether it is possible to build up a new breeding population using its far more numerous cousin, the southern white rhino, as a kind of surrogate mother.

This type of approach should not distract us from the main goal of restoring, or at least preserving, the wild habitats where endangered species live. That, of course, remains a priority. Equally, though, it is no longer viable for animal conservationists to dismiss scientific advances in reproductive technology as irrelevant to the task in hand. The simple fact is that we are currently living through the world's sixth mass extinction, this time due largely to human activity. The least we can do is not dismiss anything, however small or seemingly irrelevant, that may avert the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup