After years of working on bringing back one of the most popular extinct animals — the dodo — Colossal Biosciences has found a home for its bird in Mauritius in a new partnership with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
The Dallas-based company has previously announced it’s trying to wake the Tasmanian tiger and woolly mammoth from their eternal slumber. Colossal’s progress on the dodo would lead the bird back to its native home in East Africa and potentially give the company the power to save other soon-to-be extinct species, said Ben Lamm, co-founder and CEO of Colossal Biosciences.
“Our goal with all the species we work on is to bring them back into their natural habitat,” Lamm said. “This endorsement and collaboration from the Mauritian Wildlife is a big testament to the incredible work that not only our scientific teams are doing to bring back the dodo but the team to successfully wild them back into their natural habitats.”
Though Colossal still doesn’t have a timetable for the dodo’s return, its comeback could turn the tides for birds like the pink pigeon which are close to meeting the same fate, Matt James, Colossal’s chief animal officer, said.
The pink pigeon, a 15-inch tall herbivorous bird native to Mauritius, is also facing extinction due to habitat degradation, diseases and inbreeding, according to the Natural History Museum.
“The dodo is going to help the pink pigeon,” he said. “As we develop these Colossal de-extinction programs, we’re identifying species that would benefit directly from those technologies. All the technologies that we’re going to develop around the dodo have become tools that we can start to apply to the pink pigeon and other pigeon conservation projects.”
Lamm said he expects Colossal to put members of its team in Mauritius next year to work with the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and the local government.
The collaboration between Mauritius and Colossal may help dispel some of the Jurassic Park comparisons the company has received in the past, Lamm said.
“We’ve heard all of those comments over the years,” Lamm said. “But we have an opportunity to do it for good reasons because when you remove an animal from an ecosystem, that ecological void is felt. We’re not out to build things that shouldn’t exist. We’re focused on undoing the sins of the past and bringing back species to their native homes that mankind had a role in its demise.”
See here and here for some background. On the one hand, I have no idea how seriously to take all of this. The science is, let’s just say “razor’s edge”, and the claims are more than a little grandiose. There are also questions about funding and no clear timeline for any actual work product. Oh, and then there’s the Jurassic Park of it all, which I’m glad to see that Colossal Biosciences is willing to acknowledge. There’s a lot going on here. On the other hand, the stated goals seen quite worthwhile, and it all sounds cool as hell. I’m willing to see where it all goes. The Star-Telegram has more.