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Re: Quaternary Park?

Derek Tearne wrote:
> At 16:20 -0500 7/7/98, Chris Campbell wrote:
> >Ralph Miller III wrote:
> >> Actually, mammoths died out more recently than that (about 10,000 years
> >> ago, I believe), not counting the island pygmies which hung on until about
> >> 4,000 years ago, although I would think that the scientists are primarily
> >> interested in the big varieties (which have been found frozen).
> >>
> >> Given the elephant's long gestation  and maturation periods, this
> >> cross-breeding could take some time.
> >
> >But . . . gods, why?  We can barely keep the elephants we have alive,
> >and they want to add to our problems?  There's no place for mammoths in
> >the world today.  They're extinct, and life goes on.  Why bring back the
> >dead?
> And why bother trying to preserve species on the brink of extinction?
> They'd get wiped out by natural attrition anyway, not to mention the
> next mass extinction!

Right, but at least they have habitat in which to live.  Mammoths
don't.  Other species have taken their place.
> There are many reasons why we're prepared to attempt to preserve species
> which are on the brink of extinction due to human environmental pressures
> (hunting, loss of habitat etc.).  These range from guilt through both
> philanthropy and greed[1] to survival[2].

Right, and there's a point to it: those animals and their habitats still
exist.  Neither is true with mammoths.
> If we can justify attempting to save currently endangered species,
> then all those arguments can be used to justify the resurrection of
> species that we have already hunted/out competed to extinction.

No, they can't.  Mammoths have no place in the world today.  They have
no habitat in which to live (unless you want to displace a good chunk of
the world's elephants).  If you brought them back the only place for
them would be zoos.
> The Takahe is a local bird which is extremely rare.  Most of the survivors
> are on a couple of Islands which have been made rodent free.  I'm pretty
> sure there is stored genetic material in various universities.  If some
> ignorant jerk parks their yacht next to one of these islands and loses
> one of their dogs for a couple of hours most of the existing Takahe
> could be history.  Would it be justified to bring these creatures back
> through genetic engineering techniques?  After all it would probably
> cost less to do than the average superyacht would take to build.

Sure, because their habitat is there.  The ecosystem in which they live
still exists. In short, there's a point to bringing them back.  The same
argument cannot be made with mammoths.
> What about the Tasmanian Tiger, although there have been a few possible
> sightings these are highly likely to have become extinct when the last
> living specimen was killed in 1961 - the year I was born.

Right, and in that time its native habitat (Australia) hasn't changed
enough that there's no place for it any longer.  Fine, bring it back if
the opportunity arises.
> The New Zealand giant gecko may have still been around less than a century
> ago, the last examples probably killed by collectors.
> A century isn't that much of a stretch really.

No, it's not.  Go for it, particularly in New Zealand (where habitat for
the guy presumably still exists).
> And what about the Moa - without question hunted to extinction by
> humans, should we try to bring them back?

Is their habitat intact?  Is there a place for them in the world?  If
there is, bring 'em back.  If not, there's no point because they have
nowhere to live.
> Apart from all that resurrecting mammoths would be cool, ditto the
> dodo, moa and the giant gecko and the tasmanian tiger...

Right . . .
> Incidentally Elephants aren't particularly endangered.  Indian Elephants
> are to a large extent domesticated and therefore have a good chance of
> survival.  African Elephants may be pretty thin on the ground over much of
> west and central Africa, there are however too many of them in parts of
> Southern Africa.

They're doing lots better now, but it was touch and go for awhile.  They
certainly don't need competition in the form of mammoths.

Basically, before we bring a species back we need a place to put it. 
For mammoths, that would be Africa, Asia, and North America.  I don't
see a helluva lot of safe ground in any of the above, particularly since
they would be novel enough that they'd be poached into oblivion faster
than you could spit.  A gecko in New Zealand or a bird on an otherwise
deserted island is one thing, but a big ol' elephant in the middle of
some of the most populous and tumultuous regions in the world is a whole
different story.