Addressing the Mamoth in the room

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An island full of resurrected dinosaurs is often what first comes to mind when exploring the concept of de-extinction. Movies like Jurassic Park and the general prospect of coming face-to-face with creatures that have long gone extinct certainly evokes excitement and curiosity for many people. While scientists are not currently planning to de-extinct dinosaurs, the resurrection of other animal species is no longer mere science fiction, due to technological and molecular biological advancements made relatively recently. In 2003, the first, somewhat successful, attempt at de-extinction was made by a team of Spanish and French scientists, who brought back a Pyrenean ibex, an extinct mountain goat. This was done by injecting nuclei from preserved cells into goat eggs emptied of their DNA and implanting them in surrogate mothers, only to see the species go extinct again within minutes after birth (Folch et al. 2008). Although the revival of extinct animals has been sparking our imagination for decades through science fiction books and films, such as John Brosnan’s Carnosaur (1984) and maybe most famously Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (1990), the topic of de-extinction did not become a popular topic in the public and academic debate, until 2013 (Martinelli et al., 2014). The Revive and Restore network, supported by TED and in cooperation with National Geographic Society, organized a conference about the topic, sparking the debate in March 2013. During this conference, conservationists, ethicists, people working on genetic and biotechnology and scientists working in other related fields involved with current species-revival projects were brought together to discuss the topic in depth, yielding the interest in de-extinction of scientist and lay people (Vassershteyn, 2013).
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