Related projects around the world
Revive & Restore serves as a hub to help promote conservation genomics and to draw attention to the various organizations and initiatives working in this broad area. Some of these projects relate to extinct species such as the European Auroch and Tasmanian Tiger, while some focus on species recovery and rewilding such as the California Condor and Attwaters prairie chicken, others target disease resistance as in the case of the American Chestnut, and some are focused on restoring vanished ecosystems such as Pleistocene Park in Siberia, the Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands, and Makauwahi Cave in Hawaii.
Species Revival Projects
A number of species revival projects are currently underway, including work to bring back the European aurochs, Pyrenean ibex, American chestnut, Tasmanian tiger, California condor, and woolly mammoth.
The Uruz Project, True Nature Foundation
The Uruz Project gets its name from the old Germanic word for Aurochs, the mighty wild cattle that roamed throughout Europe until four centuries ago. The goal of the project is to bring back the Auroch using its DNA, which has been completely sequenced and will serve as the baseline for their reconstruction. Characteristics of present day cattle DNA will be altered to more closely match the Auroch using a technique called genome editing. A few selected cattle breeds that already have a strong resemblance to the Auroch will be used. The Uruz Project anticipates having Auroch-like animals in two cattle generations.
The American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project
The mission of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Center is to conduct basic and applied research that will lead to the development of a blight-resistant American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata). Our goal is to reintroduce a population of these resistant trees back into forest ecosystems of New York and then the rest of the eastern United States.
The project has evolved from basic research into a multifaceted endeavor which includes such areas as the identification of plant pathogen resistance-enhancing genes, the development of American chestnut tissue culture, field testing chestnut trees from tissue culture, public participation through the identification of rare remnant survival chestnut trees, collection and exchange of viable nuts and the establishment of large restoration plantations throughout New York State.
Ongoing activities include basic research on various single and pyramided resistance-enhancing gene designs, identification of genes associated with Asian chestnut resistance, chestnut tissue culture and gene transfer into American chestnut trees, determination of the genetic diversity in surviving remnant chestnut populations, greenhouse and field testing of putative resistant transgenic trees, the collection of rare chestnut germplasm, and the establishment of germplasm archives throughout New York.
California Condor Conservation
In 1985, the wild population of California condors consisted of nine individuals. Critically endangered due to loss of habitat and environmental hazards, the US Fish & Wildlife Service moved these last remaining wild birds into conservation breeding programs as part of the California Condor Recovery Program. Seven years later in 1992, the California Condor Recovery Team, a multi-agency effort, was able to reintroduce the condor back into the California skies and has since brought the species back from the brink of extinction. The goal of the California Condor Recovery Program is to establish two geographically separate populations, one in California and the other in Arizona. There are four active release sites in California, one in Arizona and one in Baja California, Mexico with condors flying free.
San Diego Zoo Global was given permission to begin the first captive propagation program for California condors in the 1980s – when there were only about 22 birds left in the world. Destruction of habitat, poaching, and lead poisoning was wiping out these majestic birds. San Diego Zoo Global’s California condor program has provided hope for the future of these birds, having succeeded in hatching 165 chicks and releasing 80 birds into the wild.
Watch a California condor chick grow on Condor Cam at the San Diego Zoo!
The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Recovery Team
More than a century ago, the Attwater’s prairie-chicken population was estimated to be up to a million birds. By 1919, the grouse species had disappeared from Louisiana and by 1937 only about 8,700 birds remained in Texas, signaling the end of hunting for a once common game bird. It was listed as endangered in 1967 and in 1973 the Endangered Species Act provided immediate protection. The Attwater’s prairie-chicken is considered one of the most endangered birds of North America. In 1983, under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken RecoveryTeam was formed to carry out science based efforts to help save these birds. The team includes members of both public and private conservation organizations as well as individuals with expertise in species recovery. Recent research suggests that red imported fire ants (RIFA) have a significant negative impact on insect density, or reducing the food for the chicks immediately post-fledge. If correct, and the impacts that RIFAs have on the Attwater’s is minimized, the recovery team will most likely revisit releasing birds in Goliad County. Until then, the focus is on the immediate threats relative to chick survivorship, and researchers are convinced that it has a lot to do with fire ants.
The official 2013 count for wild birds was 66 with just 46 birds in 2012 (largely due to the extreme drought in 2011). The Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken is the most endangered bird in the state of Texas and is a member of the North American grouse family. Slightly smaller and darker than it’s close relative the Greater Prairie-Chicken, this southern subspecies of the now extinct Heath Hen once roamed an extensive range on the coast of Texas and Louisiana. Today, the bird is limited to two small, isolated colonies in two counties along the Texas coast.
A project to recover the DNA of the extinct Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), started in 2000 at the Australian Museum in Sydney and made significant progress including recovery of the DNA and determination that there were identifiable nuclear and mitochondrial genes present. The focus was to recover the genome of the extinct Thylacine from museum specimens with the ultimate aim of contributing to a future effort to clone the Thylacine back into existence. Researchers in four universities and one research institute were involved. Funding was provided from private sources. This project was the subject of a Discovery Documentary provocatively entitled The End of Extinction: Cloning the Tasmanian Tiger.
Gastric Brooding Frog, University of New South Wales
“The genome of an extinct Australian frog has been revived and reactivated by a team of scientists using sophisticated cloning technology to implant a “dead” cell nucleus into a fresh egg from another frog species.
The bizarre gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus – which uniquely swallowed its eggs, brooded its young in its stomach and gave birth through its mouth – became extinct in 1983.
But the Lazarus Project team has been able to recover cell nuclei from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer. The “de-extinction” project aims to bring the frog back to life.
In repeated experiments over five years, the researchers used a laboratory technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. They took fresh donor eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, Mixophyes fasciolatus, inactivated the egg nuclei and replaced them with dead nuclei from the extinct frog. Some of the eggs spontaneously began to divide and grow to early embryo stage – a tiny ball of many living cells.
Although none of the embryos survived beyond a few days, genetic tests confirmed that the dividing cells contain the genetic material from the extinct frog.” -UNSW Newsroom, “Scientists produce cloned embryos of extinct frog,” March 15, 2013.
Pleistocene Park in Siberia
Pleistocene Park and the North-East Scientific Station (NESS) are scientific organizations located in the north of Siberia. Pleistocene Park is a major initiative that includes an attempt to restore the mammoth steppe ecosystem, which was dominant in the Arctic in the late Pleistocene era. The initiative requires replacement of the current unproductive northern ecosystems by highly productive pastures which have both a high animal density and a high rate of biocycling. Experiments with animal reintroductions began in 1988. Currently, Pleistocene Park consists of an enclosed area of 16 square kilometers that is home to 5 major herbivore species: bison, musk ox, moose, horses and reindeer.
The Oostvaardersplassen is a nature reserve in the Netherlands that is managed by the State Forestry Service. Covering about 56 square kilometres (22 sq mi), it is noted as an example of rewilding. It is in a polder (a piece of low-lying land reclaimed from the sea or a river) which was created in 1968, but in spite of the environment having little time to develop, by 1989 it had international importance as a Ramsar wetland.
Before they were driven to extinction, large herbivores in this part of Europe included the tarpan (wild horse), wisent (European bison), red deer (elk or wapiti in North America) and aurochs (wild cattle). The tarpan and aurochs are extinct, but Konik ponies and Heck cattle are able to act as functional equivalents, occupying a similar ecological niche. The only native large herbivores now missing from Oostvaardersplassen are the elk (moose in North America), the wild boar and the wisent. There is a chance that the wild boar will find its way naturally from the Veluwe.
Makauwahi Cave in Hawaii
The mission of Makauwahi Cave Reserve on Kaua`i is to protect, research, and restore Hawaii’s richest fossil and archaeological site and reestablish thousands of native plants on the surrounding landscape. Their studies have included rewilding techniques, inter situ conservation and ecological surrogacy. Acres of restored forest land, dune vegetation and wetland habitat feature almost 100 species of native plants, including many endangered species, as well as endangered waterbirds and even an underground ecosystem of blind cave invertebrates.
The American Prairie Reserve
The American Prairie Reserve is dedicated to creating and managing a prairie-based wildlife reserve that, when combined with public lands already devoted to wildlife, will protect a unique natural habitat, provide lasting economic benefits and improve public access to and enjoyment of the prairie landscape. The goal of this organization is to to create the largest wildlife reserve in the continental United States by linking together more than three million acres of private and public land on north central Montana’s legendary Great Plains. When complete, American Prairie Reserve will provide critical habitat for a stunning variety of species.