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Nature

Scientists to Attempt Resurrection of Extinct Indian Cheetah

Eight years after starting their efforts, scientists in India still believe they will be able to resurrect the long-extinct Indian Cheetah if they can acquire the cell line of the closely related Asiatic Cheetah, which lives in Iran.

“If a cell line made from the Cheetah was available, it would have been possible to resurrect the species,” said S. Shivaji, a scientist at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.It seems there are at present a few Cheetahs in Iran. If tissue or cell samples could be procured from Iran it should be possible to clone the Cheetah using Leopard as a surrogate mother.”

But should species that have already gone extinct be brought back through cloning?

India first began their cloning program back in 2000, but the Indian Cheetah has remained extinct. The last of the animal was shot by a hunter in 1953.

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The institute has set up an entire DNA bank in the “Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Animals” which gathers and stores DNA not only from already-extinct animals, but also from endangered species that they hope to help through cloning.

“Destruction of forests is causing fragmentation of habitats of wild animals and is threatening the very survival of big cats like lions, tigers, leopards and other endangered animals,” Shivaji said. “The fragmentation is also causing inbreeding of animals leading to the reduction in their genetic diversity, ultimately making them sterile and extinct.

These animals could then be released in a forest wherever required when the number of animals reaches below a critical level.”

So if the deforestation is killing the animals, we should clone new ones to be killed as well? Perhaps we should tackle the root of the problem before getting into the sci-fi plan.

Back when it was first announced, conservationists were skeptical of the operation. Even in 1953, the Cheetah was running out of open land to roam as cities and towns encroached on its territory. Bringing the species back to life would not solve the problem the species faced in the first place.

Image Credit: Public Domain




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