Should we bring extinct species back?​

Duan Biggs, Resilient Conservation’s founder and lead, recently joined a great line-up of panelists discussing species extinction and de-extinction in a conversation series titled “Bring them back: the de-extinction debate”. This insightful deliberation took place on 20th March as a part of the World Science Festival Brisbane. At the heart of the discussion was human-driven extinctions, which commenced as humans started expanding throughout the world, eventually resulting in the current biodiversity conservation crisis. In a provocative conversation, the panelists then went into addressing current developments in genetics that may allow us to bring back some of those species we have lost, such as the woolly mammoth and our beloved Tassie tiger. However, as exciting as this news may sound, controversy remains, as resources spent on those efforts could be better used on conserving what is left. Furthermore, the idea of bringing species back could create a false sense of “security”, whilst diverting attention away from mitigating current threats. Is bringing species back simply a technical question based on our ability to do so, or should we too consider it as an ethical decision with many facets?

The debate laid out these critical questions, perhaps leaving the audience with more questions than answers for people to reflect on their own. After all, conserving biodiversity is a societal endeavor in which we all need to be active participants. Scientists will help society to navigate through those complexities, but won't make those very important decisions on their own.

Fig. 1 - Panelists of the Bring them back: the de-extinction debate. From left to right: Thomas Hildebrand, Kerrie Wilson, Robyn Williams, Duan Biggs, Andrew Pask, and a Thylacine.

The panelists represented a great diversity of expertise, making the event a memorable evening. The following people stole the show: Robyn Williams (science journalists and broadcaster), Duan Biggs (Senior Research Fellow at Griffith University), Thomas Hildebrandt (Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany), Andrew Pask (Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne), and Kerrie Wilson (Executive Director of the Institute for Future Environments and a Professor at Queensland University of Technology). Whilst Thomas and Andrew are experts on evolution, genetics, and reproductive biology, Duan and Kerrie are experts on biodiversity conservation bringing a broader perspective in terms of policy and social dimensions.

 

The fourth World Science Festival Brisbane, is one of the world’s most engaging, exciting, and educational science events. The Queensland Government is immensely proud to see the return of this landmark event which connects Queenslanders to the wonder of science and opens opportunities for Queenslanders to engage with some of the world’s leading scientists. For more details, go to: www.worldsciencefestival.com.au/