Odd Enough ​Scientists: Reintroducing extinct species is a terrible idea

A group of researchers have examined the cost of reintroducing and taking care of extinct species and determined that it’s not worth it.

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The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) play

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus)

(Getty)
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In the words of the esteemed Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Life finds a way."

Just in case you were wondering whether it’s a good idea to try and bring back any extinct species, scientists would like you to know that it’s not. (Do you blame them? We’ve all seen how Jurassic Park ends.)

In early February, Harvard research George Church told New Scientist that he believes he’s two years away from being able to create a woolly mammoth embryo.

However, a group of researchers from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have examined the cost of reintroducing and taking care of extinct species and determined that it’s not worth it for a variety of reasons.

In fact, in a study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers say that this could come at a “terrible” price.

Why? To start, it would cost millions of dollars that would probably come from the overall conservation budgets of any countries involved, which would mean that it diverts money from other conservation efforts.

"On the surface of it, de-extinction could lead to biodiversity gain,"Joseph Bennett, assistant professor at Carleton University and the lead author of the study, told Vice.

“You've got one more plant or animal back on the planet. We've got a huge biodiversity crisis on this Earth, obviously, and there's no shortage of species that need conservation attention and resources."

There are also the ethical implications. While some experts believe that bringing back extinct species could increase the planet’s biodiversity, others, such as Northeastern University professor Ronald Sandler, argue that we just don’t know enough about certain species to realize the potential consequences of what could happen if we actually managed to reintroduce them (for example, the environment in which the woolly mammoth originally lived looks very different today).

In a commentary in Nature, he points out that it’s not enough to simply consider the monetary cost. “It is also necessary to assess the ethical arguments offered for and against it — for example, those concerning justice, intrinsic value, cultural value, and hubris,” he writes.

Ultimately, we still are years away from being able to resurrect extinct species. However, it's probably worth thinking carefully about whether it's something we should actually do.

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