Russian scientists hope to clone woolly mammoths, cave lions, and certain extinct species of horses within ten years -- and then showcase the animals before paying tourists at a theme park, The Siberian Times is reporting.
Call it a slightly-less-terrifying version of Jurassic Park, the famed movie franchise based on the idea of cloning extinct animals and then taking money from tourists who pay to see them. In the movies, scientists clone fearsome T-Rex's, velociraptors, and other dinosaurs -- terrifying species that have been extinct for tens of millions of years. But the species that Northern-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk have in mind to clone have only been extinct for about 10,000 years, and indeed walked alongside modern humans.
As Global Warming melts the permafrost in the northern reaches of the Russian Arctic, perfectly-preserved specimens of the extinct animals are emerging from the once-frozen ground. So perfectly preserved are the animals that scientists believe they will be able to extract full, non-degraded DNA samples from their remains.
You'll remember that in Jurassic Park, the DNA was incomplete and made up for with... well, let's not get into spoilers.
So while Jurassic Park is outside the realm of possibility -- for now, anyway -- Woolly Mammoth Park could possibly be no further than a decade away, depending on how cloning technology advances. At least, that's the hope of Evgenia Mikhailova, interim rector for North Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk.The university administrator says that, with the right investment (about $5.9 million), the region will have a "world-class paleo-genetic scientific center." What's more, the regional government of Sakha republic has promised that money.
The Siberian Times article does not mention a theme park specifically, however. But, according to Fox News, one of the officials assigned to the project has spoken of an "Ice Age Theme Park" before -- in 2014, specifically.
"The prospect was no longer fantastical. Today, technology is developing at an explosive pace, and what yesterday seemed to be scientific nonsense, today is an absolutely clear prospect for scientists."The Russians (in conjunction with South Korean and Japanese scientists) aren't the only team with a view towards cloning woolly mammoths. Harvard University geneticist Professor George Church also believes that his team can get woolly mammoth genes into an Asian elephant embryo by 2020.
So how bad of an idea is "Ice Age Park"? Well since woolly mammoths and the extinct horses that the Russians want to bring back are herbivores, the likelihood that they'll turn on the guests and eat them is comparatively small. But cave lions, on the other hand...