Kent Bush: Do we really need to make a mammophant?
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
More than 4,000 years ago, the wooly mammoth fell victim to extinction. There were reasons for this.
The animals we have known only as fossils were a little bigger than African elephants and lived in far colder climates. In fact, most mammoths vanished 10,000 years ago, but a small population of about 1,000 animals has been found near the Arctic Circle that existed as recently as 1,650 B.C.
Now scientists want to bring them back. It wouldn’t exactly be “Jurassic Park” with dinosaur DNA being snatched from mosquitoes in amber deposits. We have mammoth samples that still have flesh and hair attached. That is one of the benefits from living – and dying – relatively recently in areas with permafrost.
The scientists also are staying away from simply cloning a mammoth and bringing them back as they were before.
They want to infuse a little mammoth into the genetic framework of an Asian elephant, the smaller but genetically closest cousin of the mammoth.
They want to make a mammophant.
That sounds like a fun way to spend a few years, but even if their new hybrid wooly elephant achieves every one of their wildest dreams, the results would be pretty sketchy.
These scientists think they could give the Asian elephant an “alternative future” which sounds much more ominous than saying it would allow them to live in more places and go extinct less quickly.
This is where the plan seems to become more fiction than science.
The mammophant is also seen as a solution for global warming – which no longer exists according to the oil industry executives who now double as America’s leadership.
These scientists postulate that the mammoth hybrid would help prevent global warming by using massive tusks to poke holes in the snow and allow cold air to reach the permafrost and stop it from thawing – releasing greenhouse gasses. In warmer climates, they will knock down trees and let grass grow.
It seems to me that it would take a really active, really effective, really large group of mammophants to have any real impact on climate change. They would also need a lot of time.
But hey, let’s not look a gift wooly mammoth in the mouth. On second thought, maybe we should.
We can learn a lot from these scientists. They have a wooly mammoth carcass. They have access to Asian elephant DNA. They can manipulate them to make a new species.
They have the ability so that gives them the desire to do it.
We see the same thing in business, politics and other areas of society. Just like they learned in many, many incarnations of “Jurassic Park,” just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
We should all spend more time focusing on the should. There would be far fewer regrets.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.