Last night’s PBS documentary on the 100th Anniversary of the demise of passenger pigeons touched briefly on the idea of bringing them back from extinction by cloning their DNA. Is that playing god? In a recent National Geographic cover story on de-extinction Michael Archer, a paleontologist at the University of New South Wales says “I think we played God when we exterminated these animals.”
The idea of restoring animals bumped out of existence by human greed and avarice is gaining interest, as evidenced by an articles in Smithsonian on passenger pigeons and EO Wilson’s efforts to restore wildlife corridors aver. But resistance to species regeneration is also evident in the portrayal of the geneticist in last night’s documentary. Clearly a market, academic if not also monetary, exists based on exploiting extinction stories – perhaps arguably the last laugh on the squab.
Other concerns include the lack of habitat and changed ecosystems into which a species would be reintroduced. Without a sufficient supporting ecology we may be just dooming species to re-extinction.
Now how bad is that? A double sin at the very least!