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31.1.04

Ibex Clone

In Bid To Save Siberian Ibex, China Clones One

China announced yesterday that its scientists had cloned a Siberian ibex, a threatened mammal that dwells in the crags of central Asia, in a feat sure to heighten debate over whether cloning can help save endangered species.

... Siberian ibex, which resemble mountain goats, were described by state television as "one of the most endangered animals in China." This ibex was born after cloned cells were placed in a common goat in western China.

China is seeking to rescue endangered and threatened species - such as the giant panda and the rare freshwater white-flag dolphin - through cloning, forestalling the threat of extinction, despite arguments from some experts that the high costs of cloning would be better spent on protecting animals in their native habitats.


Cloning is appropriate when the species has gone extinct, or when the genetic diversity in the live population is dangerously low compared to the genetic diversity available from dead DNA samples. But even in this case, cloning is only the first step. It does little good -- beyond providing entertainment to the public -- to keep a species alive through cloning and life in captivity. If a population can't survive in the wild without continual restocking, we have a problem. Cloning also perpetuates the myth that high-tech fixes will solve our environmental problems.

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