Friday, November 16, 2012

Cloning to Save Endangered Species

Brazil is attempting to save eight of its endangered species by cloning them.  Scientists  at the Brasilia Zoological Garden partnered with Embrapa, the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency, have collected 420 genetic samples for the eight species they are interested in cloning.  These species are maned wolf, jaguar, black lion tamarin, bush dog, Brazilian aardvark, collared anteater, gray brocket deer, and bison.  However, cloning does not have a history of success.  Efforts to clone the extinct Pyrenean ibex in Spain resulted in the offspring only surviving for seven minutes after birth.  But if Brazil’s plan is successful, all of the animals would be copies of one another, resulting in a population of species with insignificant genetic diversity.  The cloned population would not be able to be reintroduced into the wild because they would be extremely susceptible to disease, predation, and other dangers.  These cloned populations would have to live in captivity for the remainder of their lives.  

“The idea is to keep these animals in captivity,” Embrapa researcher Carlos Frederico Martins told the Inter Press Service.  “The use of clones would prevent the impact caused by the removal of [wild] animals from their natural setting.”  He says Embrapa was the first organization to clone animals in Brazil and its researchers have already successfully cloned domesticated cows (a fairly common practice around the world).  Now, they hope to apply what has been learned to the eight endangered species.
  According to Martins, the cloning technology is expensive and has a fairly low success rate—5 to 7 percent—although he says this is on a par with other cloning efforts around the world.

Do you think Brazil’s solution of preserving endangered species is a good idea despite the fact that the resulting species would be forced to live in captivity for the remainder of their lives?  Do you think this solution will help preserve the remaining species in the wild?  Read the full story here:  

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