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Rescue, don’t resurrect species, says RSPB

The RSPB urges focus on preservation, as opposed to a resurrection of extinct animals such as the Dodo.

credits: Wikimedia Commons

Media reports of a gene editing company’s plan to revive the dodo have prompted Scotland’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to call for a scientific focus on preserving endangered species, as opposed to the reintroduction of extinct animals.

The company, Colossal Biosciences, have previously expressed plans to revive other extinct animals, including the woolly mammoth.

Ian Cleasby, a representative of RSPB Scotland’s Conservation Science and Species & Land Management division, commented to Breakthrough Press about the extent of scientific effort required to preserve an animal species.

“Recovering species requires a knowledge of past causes of decline or extinctions, the identification of possible solutions, and for those solutions to be tested to ensure they are getting the desired conservation outcome.”

The RSPB, which was founded in 1889, operates with an aim to promote the conservation and protection of bird life and is one of the largest wildlife conservation organisations; with over 1.1 million members.

Cleasby continued: “We strongly believe we should put that time and resource into saving species that we still have a chance of recovering.”

The Guardian reported the possibility of a mass extinction similar to the Permian-Triassic extinction 252 million years ago, where 95% of earth life was wiped out. These claims come in light of species today being lost at quicker rates compared to the Earth’s previous events of mass extinction.

Cleasby commented on the need for drivers of extinction to be nullified prior to the revival of an extinct species. “Successful reintroductions require that the threats that reduced or eliminated something in the past have been removed.”

The Dodo, which went extinct as a result of factors such as humans hunting the birds, as well as an introduction of rats, pigs, cats, and other animals into their ecosystem, could face challenges reintegrating into the world since their last sighting in 1662.

Cleasby noted that a resurrected Dodo would inhabit a world that has changed dramatically since they previously inhabited their native Mauritius. “The world is vastly different compared to when Dodos were alive,” he explained.

Since going extinct, the Dodo would have to adjust to changes such as the resulting developments of the Industrial Revolution, increased globalisation of trade and travel, as well as an ongoing extinction crisis.

“It’s unlikely that we know enough about the habitats they lived in and the food that was important to them, which allowed them to reproduce and to survive in the wild,” Cleasby said.

A survey launched by Breakthrough Press found some public support for a revival of extinct animals, with demand for the return of the Woolly Mammoth topping the poll, after being selected by just under 50% of respondents.


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