But Hendrik Poinar believes it will be a matter of when, not if, humans resurrect an extinct animal. A wealthy American investor approached him several years ago and asked Poinar to quit his academic job and work full time on bringing back woolly mammoths. Poinar declined, but he expects someone will eventually take on a similar project. “The technology clearly moves at lighting speed and faster than we can predict. Saying it won’t happen is silly.”
Harvard’s Church says his goal is not necessarily to fill the planet with mammoths or provide an easy solution to the global extinction crisis. Rather, he wants to give conservationists the option to save species this way. There could even be an upside for other animals on the brink of extinction.
“If there’s enough people enthusiastic about bringing an extinct species like a mammoth or passenger pigeon,” says Church, “maybe there will be interest in maintaining the species we still have.”
Ewen Callaway writes about biology and medicine for Nature News