Cloning extinct species
Cloning, or more precisely, the reconstruction of functional DNA from extinct species has, for decades, been a dream of some scientists. The possible implications of this were dramatized in the novel by Michael Crichton and high budget Hollywood thriller, "Jurassic Park". In real life, one of the most anticipated targets for cloning was once the Woolly mammoth, but attempts to extract DNA from frozen mammoths have been unsuccessful, though a Japanese team is currently working toward this goal.In 2000, a cow named Bessie gave birth to a cloned Asian gaur, an endangered species, but the calf died after 2 days; the attempt to clone a banteng was more successful and provided hope that similar techniques (using surrogate mothers of another species) might be used to clone extinct species; in anticipation of this possibility, the last bucardo, a Pyrenean Ibex, was frozen immediately after it died (from illness after birth). Researchers are also considering cloning endangered species such as the giant panda, ocelot, and cheetah. See the discussion under "Dolly" for a discussion of the promises and limitations of this approach.In 2002, geneticists at the Australian Museum announced that they had replicated DNA of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), extinct about 65 years previous, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). However, on February 15, 2005 the museum announced that it was stopping the project after tests showed the specimens' DNA had been too badly degraded by the (ethanol) preservative. Most recently, on May 15, 2005, it was announced that the project would be revived, with new participation from researchers in New South Wales and Victoria.One of the continuing obstacles in the attempt to clone extinct species is the need for nearly perfect DNA. Cloning from a single specimen could not create a viable breeding population in sexually reproducing animals. Furthermore, even if males and females could be cloned, the question would remain open if they would be viable at all in the absence of parents that teach or show them natural behavior. Essentially, even if cloning an extinct species would succeed - it must be considered that cloning still is an experimental technology that succeeds only by chance -, it is far more likely than not that any resulting animals, even if they were healthy, would be little more than curios or museum pieces. Most conservation biologists are rather vehemently opposed to cloning and consider it a smokescreen fit for generating headlines, but detrimental to conservation success, as funds needed to preserve habitat and wild populations threaten to be diverted to such cloning projects and eventually might even cause the extinction of species in a wild state; the rule-of-thumb in animal conservation is that conservation attempts in captivity are not to be undertaken on a standalone basis if it is still feasible to conserve habitat and viable wild populations. The banteng cloning project was an exception, as the animal cloned was a distinct genetic lineage and the value of preserving this piece of genetic diversity of an already inbred species outweighed the uncertainties.