Should We, Or Shouldn't We?

AjFourie

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We (here in S.A) are currently experiencing an energy crisis only to be confronted with rolling blackouts daily but I’m not even going to get that debate started, it does however push us to manage our time differently and adapt to it. So recently during one of these blackouts I ended up reading an article in a magazine that discussed the issue of (in this case it was the northern white rhino) animals that are on the brink of extinction or on their way there, and how using science and technology, some of these species could be “brought back”. It was also mentioned recently in another thread on Africa hunting regarding the extinct Quagga.

The last northern white rhino bull named Sudan has passed away due to old age. Currently there are only two female’s left. Scientists are now harvesting eggs from these females to fertilize them with frozen semen that was extracted from the bull before he died. The next step is to implant the fertilized egg in the younger one of the females as the other female is too old. The process is very complicated, and the article goes on for about four pages regarding the challenges involved and how they are still experimenting on southern white rhino females in preparation to the attempt to impregnate a northern white rhino.

I believe that all hunters are conservationists, and this seems to be the idea of the future for conservation or so it seems at least by looking at this specific article. There are people dressed in white coats and thick lensed glasses working on these projects around the world, building up a DNA data basis for different species and preserving it for future use and further studies. It’s all good and well to have the science and technology available to be able to do this of course, but is it worth it?

Will we have better and more sophisticated antipoaching programs in place and have better international legislation for these species to prevent the same scenario from happening again and if not, how many times do we “bring them back”?

This method however does not address the root of the problem, whether the problem is a decline in habitat, the illegal trade of animals and animal products for various reasons ranging from the illegal pet trade to medicine depending on the species, war, bush meat trade, or any other factors leading to the decline of certain populations. It is a reaction to the situation rather than a solution to the problem.

Regarding the general health of these animals, certain questions also come up. Would there be enough genetic diversity in these specimens to be able to breed back healthy populations and even more so, if Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest under natural circumstances were to be applied to them, what would their survival rate look like?

Would the financing of these projects not be better spent to focus on current existing conservation efforts and on tangible things like two-way radio communication systems or other gear that rangers need to support and protect species that are currently under pressure. Another aspect that should be taken into consideration is what the reaction of the black-market price would be for these critically endangered or resurrected species and that it could ultimately end up putting them under even more pressure.

And finally, where do we draw the line? What species do we bring back and which one’s do we leave in the archives at the end of the day and who makes these decisions? To be honest, I don’t want to shoot the idea and possibility out of the water or only focus on the negative points. Personally, I think a new and fresh approach to problems are healthy. I’m just curious as to what the general opinion under us hunters and conservationists would be on this matter and whether these scientists should intervene or not?

Kwalata; Conservation; Rhino; Limpopo.jpeg

(Image 1) a Southern white rhino.

Kwalata; Conservation; Pangoling; Limpopo.jpeg

(Image 2) a Pangolin, currently the most trafficked animal in the world.

Kind regards.

Aj Fourie.
 

Doug3006

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A fascinating topic that really does pose practical and ethical questions. A thought….If man is responsible for a species decline, isn’t it our obligation to put it right? I think so, if we have the level of expertise or technology needed and a plan to provide a solution to the root causes, whether habitat loss, poaching, or whatever, then I’d side with those wanting to try to fix it.
 

VertigoBE

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These are very complicated topics you are looking for answers for.

For the example of the Northern White Rhino, I would say yes, as we have the actual DNA material to bring exactly that species back.

As was discussed in another thread, if it would be about trying to bring back long time extinct species, the cards lie a bit differently. As likely it will be some kind of mix between cross breeding and using incomplete remaining DNA of the extinct species. I cannot remember who put it so eloquently, but this sums it up: "bringing back the mammoths would be more about reverse engineering modern elephants and make them hairy. They wouldn't be mammoths, just resembling them."

Now this second case, is for me personally one which throws up a larger heap of ethical questions, but I'm not convinced to be against it either. Looking outside of extinct species, I could clearly see a need for a species of microbe that can consume microplastics in the ocean. Or in some distant future, help spread life faster over new planets. Creating alternative versions, or "bringing back species" (technically a new specie, but looks like an extinct one) could be viewed as the breeding programs dog handlers had to get certain personality traits or physical characteristics out of the dog species. Just on steroids.

In any case, it will all be for naught, if we cannot implement systems that puts the right value on fauna and flora, so it can be managed effectively.
 

Doug3006

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Or transplant them in Texas! Seems the Scimitar Horned Oryx is thriving there. Maybe someday the conditions will be right to send some of them back home to north Africa.
 

Sarg

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If you mean the Scimitar Horned Oryx @Doug3006 they have done just that in the last few years to Chad I think ?

Interesting thoughts & I hope they can save the Northern Rhino for sure but pushing Shit up hill in that part of Africa, Kenya is near stuffed now days, just far far too many people, the problem with the entire plant is too great a human population !!
 

Hunt anything

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If a species is lost due to mans stupidity or greed I say do all we can to save or bring back but only if close to pure DNA can be used. If something goes naturally maybe not. But as has been said don’t manipulate current species just to resemble extinct species. Don’t want hairy elephants or sabor toothed mountain lions running around so some scientists can feel like God.
 

Woodcarver

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Embryo transplanting is a viable, proven technique to produce multiple calves from the same pairing of parents (bull semen into dam eggs) placed in recipient cows for years now. It would make sense to enlist some rhino cows from the other white rhino populations to be used as recipients. This will produce a crop of calves with limited genetic diversity however. While line breeding has it's own problems, if all you have left are brothers, sisters, and "dad" in the form of semen, then you work with what you have. Over time, there can be a slow recreation of some level of diversity through careful selection of pairings. Generations of careful pairings. It will be a looong, slow process, but possible.
As someone mentioned, without a plan in place and the resources to keep it going and protected, the regeneration of the northern white rhino is doomed.
While the concept of recreating a species is fascinating in theory, mankind doesn't have a very good track record in trying to "fix" changes in the natural world. Look into nutria and kudzu introduced to "fix" a problem. So the idea of genetically recreating any of these long extinct creatures is a fascinating discussion, but it should remain just that, a discussion. Those ancient species disappeared for a natural reason.
 

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The demise of the northern white rhino is a strange mix of an evil civil war and good intentions gone awry. We owe it to the world to try to save them. I don't hold out too much hope but there is a chance.

Long extinct species either died off for a reason or evolved into extinction. Leave sleeping dogs lie. We have enough to figure out with our existing animals.
 

mark-hunter

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Bringing back extinct species from dna, so far has never been done.
Quagga peoject and similar project of bringing back aurox, european wild cattle, are based on mixing animals of similar genotype and external look. Basically creating a new hybrid.
If they want northern white rhino, what they can is introduce southern white rhino to kenya, and thats about it. Damage is done.

I am all for genetic resurrection of extinct species, but our science and technology is not yet on that level.
 

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Embryo transplanting is a viable, proven technique to produce multiple calves from the same pairing of parents (bull semen into dam eggs) placed in recipient cows for years now. It would make sense to enlist some rhino cows from the other white rhino populations to be used as recipients. This will produce a crop of calves with limited genetic diversity however. While line breeding has it's own problems, if all you have left are brothers, sisters, and "dad" in the form of semen, then you work with what you have. Over time, there can be a slow recreation of some level of diversity through careful selection of pairings. Generations of careful pairings. It will be a looong, slow process, but possible.
As someone mentioned, without a plan in place and the resources to keep it going and protected, the regeneration of the northern white rhino is doomed.
While the concept of recreating a species is fascinating in theory, mankind doesn't have a very good track record in trying to "fix" changes in the natural world. Look into nutria and kudzu introduced to "fix" a problem. So the idea of genetically recreating any of these long extinct creatures is a fascinating discussion, but it should remain just that, a discussion. Those ancient species disappeared for a natural reason.
Absolutely this is and has been a common practice in cattle. Has been for decades. As has cloning however im not aware of any real cloning efforts taking place anymore because you really gain nothing geneticly. The Holstein bulls from the artificially split embryo (cloned) where very interesting to see. The markings on the left of the one could be seen to have major similarities to the right side of the other. Not exact so fun to speculate and imagine, just not sutecif it was scientific or just happenstance;)

But yeah, they should be able to put fertilized embryos into Southern White Rhino surrogate mothers. I don't see why they would implant them into the younger Northern cow? Why not just keep harvesting her embryos as long as she produces them and they have semen available.
 

Woodcarver

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Absolutely this is and has been a common practice in cattle. Has been for decades. As has cloning however im not aware of any real cloning efforts taking place anymore because you really gain nothing geneticly. The Holstein bulls from the artificially split embryo (cloned) where very interesting to see. The markings on the left of the one could be seen to have major similarities to the right side of the other. Not exact so fun to speculate and imagine, just not sutecif it was scientific or just happenstance;)

But yeah, they should be able to put fertilized embryos into Southern White Rhino surrogate mothers. I don't see why they would implant them into the younger Northern cow? Why not just keep harvesting her embryos as long as she produces them and they have semen available.
As I recall, the cloning effort had more issues than successes and the cost/benefit was not rational. While a lot of significant medical information was gathered from Dolly and those that followed, the concept of identical replacement organs didn't pan out, which I believe was the original goal.

Their use of the one fertile cow as a recipient makes no sense. She is it for additional egg production/harvest. Why put her at risk by having her carry and birth calves?
 

KWALATA SAFARIS

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A fascinating topic that really does pose practical and ethical questions. A thought….If man is responsible for a species decline, isn’t it our obligation to put it right? I think so, if we have the level of expertise or technology needed and a plan to provide a solution to the root causes, whether habitat loss, poaching, or whatever, then I’d side with those wanting to try to fix it.
I would agree with your summation and most comments here. With that said I can’t help but believe that addressing the true root problem (habitat loss) is the only way. Even if you bring them back but have no place to put them it’ll all have been for nothing or am I seeing the dark cloud inside the silver lining?
Habitat loss due to human encroachment is the single largest threat to wildlife world wide.

My best
Jaco
 
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Doug3006

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I would agree with your summation and most comments here. With that said I can’t help but believe that addressing the true root problem (habitat loss) is the only way. Even if you bring them back but have no place to put them it’ll all have been for nothing or am I seeing the dark cloud inside the silver lining?
Habitat loss due to human encroachment is the single largest threat to wildlife world wide.

My best
Jaco
Agreed! Let’s work together to help preserve your new Waterberg property! Only 252 days from today!
 

93marlin

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I would agree with your summation and most comments here. With that said I can’t help but believe that addressing the true root problem (habitat loss) is the only way. Even if you bring them back but have no place to put them it’ll all have been for nothing or am I seeing the dark cloud inside the silver lining?
Habitat loss due to human encroachment is the single largest threat to wildlife world wide.

My best
Jaco
Agreed! With an addendum, wildlife of all kinds have great ability to survive in out of the way locations. Unseen and unknown until the population has risen to a level where the particular species can and does become visible to humanity again.
Create the habitat and they will return.....
 

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What’s the story on the Pangolin?? I guess I could Google it but would trust the AH experts more.
 

BourbonTrail

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What’s the story on the Pangolin?? I guess I could Google it but would trust the AH experts more.
Scales are used in Chinese medicine ( like rhino horn), and meat is sold in same black market venues as bats & monkeys. Trafficked heavily as a result, and a lot easier to collect/smuggle than rhino or elephant materials.
 

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Agreed! Let’s work together to help preserve your new Waterberg property! Only 252 days from today!
;-) counting already?! Let’s hope we can preserve the areas that do not fall under parks, that where the difference will be made.
 

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I don't think that there is a right or wrong answer here, but it could make us see more of the challenges involved with conservation and come up with new solutions. Loss of habitat and the human population boom would definitely be our greatest challenge in years to come.

Projects like Molly would have helped to shape the science and technology that we have today and I am sure that projects like the one that they are doing with the rhino could be an advantage going forward. Artificial insemination under domestic animals and knowledge acquired with this over the years could also be used to our advantage.

I truly hope that we can come up with new plans and ideas to conserve these animals that we are so desperately trying to give another chance and to create strongholds that will protect them. There is still allot of water to go under the bridge before we can call this a viable option but it is a great place to be in terms of having the conversations as to what the best way would be in future.

For the short term solution I think it is important to support existing conservation programs and to support organizations and companies that are likeminded. See who has antipoaching teams and how your support could help the rangers doing the ground work. Help spread a positive message to everyone that we are indeed all in for conservation and that hunters as well as hunting will be a contribution to conservation.

Lastly, thank you for your positive reaction toward this article. I find it interesting to see what everyone has to add to this. In the related article section I see that there is a thread discussing the plight of these northern white rhinos and describes the whole process in more detail if anyone is interested in learning more about what they are doing. I wanted to find out what the general opinion on AH would be regarding this matter. I am proud of being a hunter and to be part of a hands on community!
 

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