The Return of the Mammoth
Scientists plan to bring back an extinct animal. Good idea . . . or disaster?
Imagine being face-to-face with a woolly mammoth. It would be quite a sight. Scientists believe it would tower at 11 feet tall. The woolly mammoth would have a sloped back, a long, powerful trunk, and sharp, curved tusks that stretch up to 10 feet. Its thick hair would be up to three feet long. It would weigh six tons—about as much as a bus.
You’ve probably never seen a giant furry elephant before. Actually, you definitely haven’t. The species has been extinct for thousands of years.
But a few years from now, you might be able to see a woolly mammoth for yourself. Scientists believe they have the technology to re-create one.
MEET THE MAMMOTH
A team of South Korean and Russian scientists plan to clone a woolly mammoth. How will they do it?
Several woolly mammoth bodies have already been discovered in Siberia, an icy region in Russia. The scientists plan to take cells from these frozen mammoths. In a laboratory, they’ll use them to create a new cluster of cells called an embryo. The embryo would be placed into the womb of a living female elephant. That elephant would then give birth to a baby woolly mammoth.
The scientists believe the whole process will take five years. Many scientists and animal lovers can’t wait. It will be so exciting, they think, to be able to bring back to life a creature that has been extinct for thousands of years. People would travel from around the world for the chance to see a woolly mammoth. By observing the way the creature looks and acts, scientists might make brand-new discoveries about the history of animal life.
A BIG CHALLENGE
Other experts aren’t so sure about the woolly mammoth project. One big question is what to do with a mammoth. Earth has changed in the thousands of years since these animals roamed the planet. Where would the creature live, and would it be able to survive in today’s climate?
Then there’s the cost: Some believe that the money being spent on the experiment could be better spent on other important scientific projects, such as fighting disease.
But the South Korean and Russian scientists are sticking to their plan. They admit they have a big challenge ahead. There is no guarantee that they will succeed, but they’re hopeful.
Besides, scientists in South Korea have already cloned dogs, coyotes, a cat, a pig, and a cow—why not a mammoth?