Attack of the Clones
Tech|May 14, 2020

Attack of the Clones

The Race To Clone The First Woolly Mammoth Is On
Chris Flynn

APOLOGIES if you haven’t seen The Island, but here’s the spoiler: Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are clones. Those figure-hugging white jumpsuits are just to keep their tasty, tasty organs in good shape, so when their douchebag real-world counterparts need a new lung, they’ve got a spare cluelessly wandering around, waiting to be harvested.

That was 2005, but the thing is, people are doing it now. We’re about to see several extinct species making an unexpected comeback over the next few years. No dinosaurs as yet, but once they find that T. rex-sucking mosquito preserved in amber, all our Jurassic Park fantasies/nightmares will become a reality.

Let’s start with domestic beasties. A Laika dog called Kerechene was cloned from her mother’s ear back in 2017 by South Korean madman – sorry, I mean respected geneticist – Dr Hwang Woo Suk. Kerechene has now given birth to two litters of naturally born puppies. Giddy with success, and with a lap full of cute puppers, Dr Hwang is already at work on bringing back the woolly mammoth and a huge, 42,000-year-old horse.

The Russians are involved, of course, but mainly because it’s in their backyard where people are finding perfectly preserved specimens as the Siberian permafrost melts. I was going to say, “as the Siberian permafrost goes the way of the dodo”, but we’ll have to rethink that phrase because they’re also reviving the dodo.

All you need for a spot of home cloning is viable DNA. Mammoth blood was found in a Siberian carcass seven years ago. They’re 99.96 per cent African elephant anyway, so the plan is to fertilise eggs in the lab, birth live mammoths and have the bewildered critters raised by elephants. Once there’s enough of them, they can breed naturally and next thing you know, we’ll have a massive herd of them on our hands, just like the old days.

There used to be millions of them roaming the Great Steppe – a landmass that stretched around the north of the world. Their big feet compacted the snow and kept the ground cold. Then we turned up, killed them all and set fire to everything. Guess what happened next? It got hot.

So, the theory is if we create a new mega herd and release them in Siberia, they might cool everything down a bit for us. It won’t solve global warming, but hey, it might help and also – mammoths! They’ll be awesome!

“No dinosaurs as yet, but once they find that T.rex-sucking mosquito preserved in amber, all our Jurassic Park fantasies/nightmares will become a reality.”

If you’re thinking that some anonymous Russians and old Dr Hwang there sound a bit dodgy, take heart in the fact the Americans are working on exactly the same thing. Dr George Church is professor of genetics at Harvard and head of the Woolly Mammoth Revival Team. He and his crew are in a race with the Koreans to be the first mammoth riders. Look, they’re probably not creating them to ride, technically, but how could they resist?

This is happening, folks, within the next few years. There are also plans to rescue the dodo, the passenger pigeon and in pleasing news for locals pissed off with all the Airbnb tourists driving up property prices in Hobart, the Tasmanian tiger. Beef those tigers up a bit and release a bunch on Cradle Mountain. That should put paid to a few baby boomer pests.

If you think all this is playing God and bound to go wrong, you’re probably right. Even if cloning is banned in certain countries, it won’t be everywhere. If someone gets hold of Michael Jackson’s DNA (there must be plenty lying around), what’s to stop them bringing Jacko back for another tour? Nothing, except what if his clone just wants to be a bus driver? Let him, I say, as long as it’s not the school bus.

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