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Jeppe van der Lee
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This article is written by Jeppe van der Lee, founder of BrightAhead. Mission: a stronger connection between people and nature globally.

De-extinction as a conservation tool

By: Jeppe van der Lee

On: 14/12/2023

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De-extinction as a tool in conservation biology initiates advancement in science and offers hope for the future

The de-extinction of species is both perceived as an exciting and a terrifying topic. What is it about and why should we consider it at all?


The ethical debate concerning bringing back species from the past states that we should not interfere with ‘mother nature’ and that it is a dangerous effort to ‘play as god’ (1).

However, I argue that it is equally interfering with ‘mother nature’ by firstly bringing such marvellous species to extinction. I find us therefore responsible to at least consider to de-extinct such species.

Going back to the roots

Still, much can be argued against this from other perspectives such as where we should put our time and effort in in times of climate change and an ongoing extinction crisis. It is easy to become convinced to invest in current species instead that are faced with extinction. This is a matter of solving the problem at it’s roots instead of solving the consequences (extinction).

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Paving the way

However, it should be considered that by developing de-extinction technologies, this may pave the way for grander projects with high conservational value. There are numerous examples of extinct species that fulfilled significant ecological functions. An example is the passenger pigeon which was able to spread enormous amounts of seeds across the Nort-American continent thanks to its yearly migration from North to South and by its huge population numbers which considered millions (2). The woolly mammoth maintained the so called “mammoth steppe”. This landscape converted from grassland to boreal forest and tundra after its extinction (2). The process of de-extincting species will furthermore allow developments in science, the ethical debate, and legal structures which these projects require. Therefore, providing further opportunities in restoring (socio)-ecological landscapes.

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A New Hope

Current conservation efforts are prone to failure with few “wins”. The resurrection of extinct species offers a win-win in which attention is drawn to conservation efforts and hope is created for novel ecosystems that are ecologically restored (4), at the other end of the climate and extinction crisis. The reintroduction of the Chinese Milu deer, which was formerly extinct in the wild, is an impressive example of the come back of a species by human facilitation (3). The species was reintroduced in the wild and faced a steady increase in population numbers. This subsequently raised concerns about habitat availability which brought attention to conservation efforts to restore previous habitats and to introduce predators to control population numbers. Hence, bringing back an extinct species, is like pushing a snowball down a hill which accumulates in significance over time. Their presence can recover lost ecosystems and provide further developments in ecological restoration efforts, bringing us hope to conserve global biodiversity and the natural beauty of our planet.

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