Scientists believe that they may be able to bring back the woolly mammoth. Well, technically, it wouldn’t be an actual woolly mammoth, but an elephant with certain mammoth genes in place of their own. We lack enough genetic data from a mammoth to fully clone one, but the hybrid mammoth-elephant would look like a mammoth and behave like a mammoth, so really, most people wouldn’t know the difference. However, because scientists could bring back the woolly mammoth, does that mean they should? What exactly are the ethical implications of messing with nature this much, and going as far as actually bringing back the dead?
Well, to begin with, this is really no different to a lot of the genetic work that already goes on: cloning, gene editing, inserting new genes into different animals. Although always controversial, the scientific consensus has moved past the question of whether it’s right; it is fine, it’s generally accepted, it’s really a large part of everyday life. Scientists have cloned everything from sheep to sea urchins, and putting DNA from a mammoth into an elephant is nothing compared to putting genes from a jellyfish into a pig, which scientists have also done. The mammoth wouldn’t even be the first de-extinct animal, several years ago the Pyrenean Ibex was returned to life from extinction. It promptly died again, making it the first animal to have the dubious honour of going extinct twice. Also, bringing the mammoth back in this way is really no more meddling in the natural order than a lot of the work done to protect endangered species, and is definitely less of a problem for nature than a lot of the work done to make animals extinct in the first place. Humans have no problem killing off entire species, nor in investing huge amounts of time and resources into keeping a single breeding pair alive in the hope of restoring the species. The fact that an animal is extinct should not make that much difference compared to it being critically endangered, after all, in both cases the animal will not survive without human intervention, and will need to be gradually reintroduced into the wild if the repopulation attempts are successful.
Additionally, bringing back the mammoth would not just be awesome (and let’s be honest, it would be incredibly cool; the closest we can come to Jurassic Park. Sure, the Parks don’t work out, but they’re definitely impressive), but would also serve an actual purpose. mammoths are huge herbivores capable of living in colder conditions than elephants. This means that the mammoths could be reintroduced to the Siberian tundra, and help to make it more fertile, keeping the permafrost from melting and fighting global warming. People are already trying this with reindeer, but mammoths would be a massive (literally) help in achieving this.
Also, a less well-known problem regarding extinction and endangerment is the loss of the fertility created by the manure of large animals, such as elephants and giraffes, which mammoths would help combat. And really, doesn’t the mammoth deserve this help more than the panda, an animal that has no real place in the food chain, as it only eats bamboo and has no predators, and refuses to mate? Let’s put our effort into the Mammoth.