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Mongabay: “Extinction is pressing, Biotechnologies are necessary”

Revive & Restore’s Lead Scientist, Ben Novak, at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center holding Elizabeth Ann at 3-weeks old. Elizabeth Ann turned one on December 10, 2021. 

Revive & Restore’s Lead Scientist Ben Novak recently spoke to Mongabay about the need to pursue biotechnologies like cloning to address the extinction crisis. In her piece titled “For species on the very brink of extinction, cloning is a loaded last resort”, Mongabay journalist Caitlin Looby takes a look at what actions are being taken to save our world’s disappearing biodiversity. 

“Right now, conventional conservation measures are struggling to keep up with the pace of the threats that face the world. We’ve crippled populations to such fragmented and small sizes,” says Ben Novak, lead scientist at Revive and Restore, a nonprofit organization that works to boost biodiversity through what’s known as genetic rescue of endangered and extinct animals.

“Biotechnologies, like cloning and gene editing, now give us a chance to accelerate the evolution of species so they can actually cope with change and survive it.”

Looby spoke with other scientists working in the field of conservation and genomics, including Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary molecular biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Revive and Restore board member. 

“The pace of change is too fast today for evolution by natural selection to keep up,” Shapiro says.

“If we want to live in a future that is both biodiverse and filled with people, then we have no choice but to continue to intervene as we always have … in more deliberate, thoughtful, and careful ways.”

Oliver Ryder, Kleberg Endowed Director of Conservation Genetics at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, was a critical partner of Revive and Restore’s in cloning the Pzewalski’s Horse and Endangered Black-footed Ferret. 

“The way to save species is to save them in their habitats,” Ryder says. “But the fact that we have species going extinct means that … it’s not being realized to the fullest extent.

“An additional set of options offers the future the possibility that wouldn’t otherwise have existed,” he adds.

You can read the full article online here