A recent headline has been making the rounds over the last couple of days.. But one word stood out in just about each one.. "De-extinctify".. "De-extinction".. All pertaining to the woolly mammoth. Scientists at Harvard University have advised that they could be 2 years away from inserting DNA from a woolly mammoth into an Asian elephant, to create a form of hybrid of a woolly mammoth. A Harvard University scientist told The Guardian this week that his team is only two years from resurrecting some traits of the woolly mammoth, which went extinct during the last ice age. The goal is to create an embryo that’s a hybrid of the woolly mammoth and its closest living relative, the Asian elephant. “Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” researcher George Church told The Guardian. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits.” Church explained to HuffPost last year that the process involves retrieving DNA from mammoth remains preserved on the frozen tundra, then splicing that DNA into the genome of an Asian elephant. The species are so closely related that they would be able to breed if both were alive today, Church noted. Other news sites have picked up on the story and all of a sudden, "de-extinctify" and "de-extinction" are buzzwords in these articles. From The Guardian: The creature, sometimes referred to as a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr. Until now, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos – although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature. “We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab,” said Church. Since starting the project in 2015 the researchers have increased the number of “edits” where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45. “We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood, but there are others that seem to be positively selected,” he said. The article notes that Church presented two benefits and reasons to do this. One is to help preserve the endangered Asian elephants, even though it will be in a different form and adapted to colder weather and with smaller ears and a long fur. The other being to help delay and prevent global warming. His theory amounts to the hybrid living in the tundra regions, eating dead grass and knocking down old trees that would allow new grass and shoots to grow. So should we be doing this? Ethical concerns have been raised about this venture. Which is not surprising, given what they are proposing. One of which: Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, said: “The proposed ‘de-extinction’ of mammoths raises a massive ethical issue – the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant. What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by elephants?” Which is exceptionally valid.. How will this hybrid animal be seen and treated by the social Asian elephant? What would happen if it was rejected? The global warming theory also presents other ethical issues.. The woolly mammoth has been extinct for over 4,000 years from the tundra region this hybrid animal would be made to roam - as the scientists advised it would be adapted to survive and live in that environment. The eco-system in these areas are on a knife's edge. Animals currently native and endemic to these regions would be affected by a mammoth re-entering the eco-system, eating dead grass and knocking down trees. Not to mention an increase in methane from these animals if they were re-introduced. From the animal's social perspective, these are very social animals. What would happen to it if it is rejected by other elephants? To allow it to adapt, it would be born in a warmer area, where it would be surrounded by Asian elephants. How would it adapt to that environment? Sometimes I wonder if our own needs, our own desire to see a woolly mammoth (it would be cool!), is blinding us to the reality of making an animal like a woolly mammoth, no longer extinct and bringing it back 4,000 years after it disappeared from Earth. The initial extinction of the woolly mammoth were affected by and caused by global warming, human encroachment, being hunted, loss of habitat (due to global warming and human settlements and being hunted) among others. So what would be different this time? And is it still a mammoth or elephant? Or something completely new and driven by a lab instead of natural evolution? Not to mention the fact that a hybrid like this could be prone to more diseases and more affected by the climate. So, what does everyone think? Should it be brought back as a hybrid? Or should we focus on saving the Asian elephant as the Asian elephant and leave the extinct animals, well, extinct and learn from the past? I am torn on this one. Yes, I would love to see a mammoth, even a hybrid one. But I also feel disgust at the suffering we could be subjecting his animal to, just so we can see one alive..