Brazilian researchers are preparing to ask their government for permission to experiment with creating cloned animals using biological samples from eight endangered animal species, including jaguars and maned wolves, for supply to zoos and other captive environments. According to one researcher, “The idea is to test cloning technology so the zoo has its own repository of animals, which will avoid the need to take species from their natural habitat.” Currently the 420 samples are specific to a particular area in Brazil, but the team wants to increase their collection by adding material from other species and regions, including African elephants and giraffes.
What’s the Big Idea?
Brazil is just one of several countries that are looking to cloning as a means of preserving endangered species. Cloned animals would not be put into the wild and in fact could potentially weaken the gene pool of their “natural” cousins. However, conservationists are critical of such projects for several reasons, including “commercialisation, fostering complacency about rare species, undermining habitat protection and providing an excuse for the resumption of banned trades in animal parts.”