Cloning endangered species - Watch out!

At a time when more species are constantly being added to endangered species lists, could cloning technology step in? This 2002 article tells us that China was "just a step away from being able to clone giant pandas". I couldn't find out anything about whether they did or not since then, but in the case of pandas, hunting and habitat destruction are largely responsible for their endangered status. Could cloning alone do anything more than push back the problem a little farther down the line?Same with this recent WikiNews article about the successful cloning of an almost extinct species of cow in Brazil. It's good news, very good news, but our reasoning must not stop there: Why is that species endangered in the first place? Shouldn't we be collectively working a bit more seriously on problems like this instead of expecting to find a technological solution to the loss of biodiversity? I'm not saying that cloning endangered species is a bad thing, or that people are giving up work in other areas of nature conservation because of it, but I'm afraid that it gives many, like with hydrogen fuel cell technology, the false impression that a solution is coming, some kind of deus ex machina, and that we can relax in the meantime (although readers of Treehugger are certainly more alert than average and less likely to fall for that chimera).

Affordable fuel cells won't give us the infrastructure to produce hydrogen cleanly and make our society sustainable, and cloning animals won't magically make the reasons why they are endangered in the first place disappear. We must keep the whole picture in mind and work to create the right conditions for these technologies to be used successfully as part of a holistic vision.

Photo credit: Aaron Logan

[by MGR]