A Columbian mammoth on display at the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. (Mario de Lopez / Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County)


Opinion: Why we shouldn’t bring back extinct species

Reviving extinct animals poses ethical and practical questions that would need to be addressed.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/rshah876/" target="_self">Rohan Shah</a>

Rohan Shah

July 19, 2023

The idea of bringing back extinct animals is a topic of debate in scientific and ethical communities. Imagine how cool it would be to see living, breathing dodo bird or woolly mammoth. 

Reviving these divine animals could restore the biodiversity lost due to decades of human activity and climate change. However, it seems that the risks outweigh the benefits, as bringing back species that have been absent for hundreds of years raises many questions about its morality and feasibility. 

Scientists would be able to bring back these extinct animals by piecing together broken fragments of their DNA, as well as using a genome editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9. These modern methods are early in their development stages and have their own scientific and practical challenges. 

But even with perfect technology, an impending question on the revival of extinct species is what would their effect be on the present-day environment? Ross MacPhee, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City states, “They’d [scientists] have to bring back millions of woolly mammoths, and it would take centuries for any positive change to occur. You’re not talking about rats. You’re talking about animals that weigh 4 to 5 tons.”

Placing any extinct species, no matter the size, from a Saber-toothed tiger to a Splendid Poison frog, into the wild would send ripple effects and cause a disruption in the food chain. It’s uncertain if ancient animals could thrive in today’s world, especially since the modern ecosystem is  much different from their time, and it’s not worth the risk. 

From an ethical standpoint, there are several questions to take into account. What would be the consequences if the process of de-extinction went wrong? How would the revived species be used; just for amusement and profit? Who will pay for the continuous care and monitoring of these animals? Recent biotech startups have been created and given millions upon millions of dollars of funding, but once the animals are made, and the hype dies down, who will be looking after the animals? After the dodos and woolly mammoths repopulate, who will pay thousands of dollars a year to feed and nurse them? 

While the idea of de-extinction is intriguing,  there are several scientific, ethical, and practical questions to ask that need to be addressed, some of which might never be properly answered. It would be better to focus our attention on the exotic animals we have today, and donate money to the ones who are currently endangered. As we all know, Jurassic Park was a terrible idea, and it taught us that when it’s man versus nature, nature will always find a way to prevail, so it’s best to keep extinct animals extinct.