Brazil aims to clone endangered animals


Conservationists in Brazil are poised to try cloning eight animals that are under pressure, including jaguars and maned wolves.

Other conservation groups have welcomed the plan, but say the priority should always be to preserve species in the wild by minimising hunting and maintaining habitats.

“While cloning is a tool of last resort, it may prove valuable for some species,” says Ian Harrison of the Biodiversity Assessment Unit at Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia. “Experimenting with it now, using species that are not at immediate risk of extinction, is important.”

Save our species

None of the targeted animals are critically endangered, but Brazil’s agricultural research agency, Embrapa, wants a headstart. Working with the Brasilia Zoological Garden, it has collected around 420 tissue samples, mostly from carcasses.

The eight species live in the Cerrado, a tropical savannah. They will be cloned and kept in captivity as a reserve in case wild populations collapse.

Within a month, Embrapa hopes to begin cloning the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), which is classed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. About 13,000 remain across South America.

As well as jaguars and maned wolves, the researchers hope to clone black lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysopygus), bush dogs (Speothos venaticus), coatis, collared anteaters (Tamandua tetradactyla), gray brocket deer (Mazama gouazoupira) and bison.

Written By: Andy Coghlan
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  1. Extinction was the subject of BBC’s science club this week. And while there are the arguments that certain animals are neccessary for habitat harmony , I’m in the why bother camp. I thinks its a diversion really to get money for questionable activity.

  2. It is a last ditch measure, but without  a viable gene-pool in a habitat with a viable ecosystem, it is a waste of time.
    Habitat protection should be the priority.
    There is merit in seed-banks for some plants, but animal species need living populations with living space and their associated ecosystem. 
    Problems of weakened gene-pools have already been demonstrated with captive bred reintroductions.

  3. Alan -“There is merit in seed-banks for some plants, but animal species need
    living populations with living space and their associated ecosystem. 
    Problems of weakened gene-pools have already been demonstrated with captive bred reintroductions.”

    Agreed, but if we can start to get this technology sorted out we may one day be able to clone the lot.  But you’re right it’s going to be some decades off I feel, but if we don’t start trying….  They should be getting as many diverse tissue samples as possible to start getting samples of diverse populations before they become too weakened. 

  4. it is a very parochial approach. we are still dithering from looking at nature in a way that conforms with our present knowledge about environment and the working of ecological systems.
    How can we simply take a species as an independent entity free of all the ecological, mass and energy linkages.
    It will all end up as another burden that shall become part of economic discussions around growing deficits which will then demand shelving of all these programmes which by then will seem an unsustainable excess. 
    Man needs to keep up his rigorous study of genetics and probe more, but to accept an apparent application from a study that is still in a fledgling state and entrusting it with duties so critical to the very existense of man and sustenance of environment in its diversity smacks more of the same arrogance with which he runs around the earth putting price tags over things and processes whose implications are yet to dawn upon him. In this world of reason we are increasingly reasoning less.
    Man needs to be more circumspect. Though it is this very nature of our economy that has aided various studies all these years and the urban environment that has sparked the fire of enterprise in man, we must stop once in a while, to think and tweak our course.  we are not on a sustainable course. and on top of it, we have started giving out prescriptions of such serious import.
    The government should concentrate more on funding studies that unravel the systems in amazon in greater detail, ensure insitu conservation and actively engage the human communities to aid in nature conservation.
    These half hearted attempts of man while his machines plough through the pristine forests are going to do no good. 

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