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Animal De-Extinction Could Potentially Wipe Out Extant Species

Feb 28, 2017 10:37 AM EST
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Bringing back extinct animal species could potentially wipe out one or more existing animal species.
(Photo : Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A new study by an international team of researchers from Canada, New Zealand and Australia revealed that bringing back extinct animal species could potentially wipe out one or more existing animal species.

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, showed that the expense of de-extinction could be better be used to help conservation efforts for endangered animals that are still roaming the Earth today.

"De-extinction could be useful for inspiring new science and could be beneficial for conservation if we ensure it doesn't reduce existing conservation resources," said Hugh Possingham, a scientist and professor at University of Queensland and co-author of the study, in a press release. "However, in general, it is best if we focus on the many species that need our help now."

For the study, the researchers analyzed the databases from New Zealand and Australia that tracks how much conservation efforts cost for protecting endangered animals. By doing so, the researchers were able to extrapolate how much it would costs to sustain a population of animals that was brought back from extinction.

The researchers found that the money needed to sustain a de-extinct species, taken directly from the government's conservation budget, could significantly lessen the funding of all conservation efforts for extant animals. As a result of the lower budget, one de-extinct species might lead to the extinction of two extant species. For example, a government-funded conservation for 11 focal extinct species in New Zealand would sacrifice as many as 31 extant species.

If the funding for the de-extinction project would come from private institutions, then there could be a small increase in local biodiversity. However, the researchers noted that external funding for the conservation of five de-extinct species could help conserve as many as 42 extant species, more than eight times as many.

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