The Frozen Zoo is an initiative started by the San Diego Zoo to preserve endangered species. By collecting and carefully storing frozen DNA samples from over 800 species, from which researchers hope to generate reproductive cells that would be implanted into a female of the same species,the initiative creates an easier solution to the problem of dwindling population numbers. Instead of relying on a species to reproduce at a natural pace, scientists and animal conservationists intend to bolster the number of whichever species they choose.
Samples started to be collected in 1972, but were unusable until recent technological developments.
While no one should want to see a species go extinct, the project has been met with opposition. Critics are asking why scientists would try to preserve endangered species if the animal can’t survive in the wild. The reality is that humans are generally the cause of species extinction, so it makes sense that humans should try to remedy their mess.
Since the beginning of the initiative, people have viciously compared it to a “Jurassic Park” scenario. An article about the Frozen Zoo on the guardian.co.uk website features a screenshot from a “Jurassic Park” movie, captioned: “How San Diego Zoo will look in a couple of years’ time. Or possibly a still from Jurassic Park III. It’s hard to tell.”
The picture heads a snarky article questioning the motives of the project.
This is the worst attitude to have. Too many species go extinct every year — 27,000 to be exact. Zoos have even become necessary for certain species to survive because humans hunt down the remaining species out in the wild. The scientists at the San Diego Zoo are making a concerted effort to help preserve these animals and to increase the number of rare species. Saving these animals is vital to keeping balance in ecosystems.
The mad scientist is a cliché of science fiction films and literature. We should trust that scientists are smart enough to not try to clone dinosaurs. Right now, their focus is solely on endangered species. Researchers unrelated to the Frozen Zoo may be trying to get wooly mammoth samples, but as of now they are not succeeding.
At this time, the cells are not viable for implanting for reproduction. When the time comes that there are more than eight white rhinos, thanks to the Frozen Zoo, then we can worry about a dinosaur park. For now, people should be grateful that there may be a solution to species extinction in the near future. Furthermore, the research being done also helps scientists understand the human genome, which could potentially lead to medical breakthroughs. Cloning a velociraptor seems low on the to-do list.
In any case, if there were a Discovery Channel special on the Frozen Zoo, it would be perfectly acceptable to have Jeff Goldblum narrate. Raptor Jesus would expect nothing less.
Article first published in StatePress.com