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Don't ask why, but scientists in Russia and South Korea are working together to clone a wooly mammoth, also known as the tundra mammoth, a long-haired elephant-like creature with horizontal banding on his trunk and long, gracefully curved tusks, who disappeared from its native habitat about 10,000 years ago.
Unlike many other prehistoric animals, wooly mammoths did not fossilize, but were preserved in their organic state because of the frozen climates in which they lived. Because of the way they preserved, scientists have been able to assemble a complete mitochondrial DNA profile of the mammoth, and have traced the wooly mammoth to Asian elephants, from which the African elephants branched off.
Cloning of the wooly mammoth, according to reports, is to replace an elephant's natural eggs with the restored eggs of a wooly mammoth in the elephant's womb.
Woo-suk Hwang, who last year became the first scientist to clone a coyote, is in charge of the project and has a private financial backer, Moon-soo Kim.
“Our original dream is cloning dinosaurs. It may be difficult now … but we believe we will shake the world once again by creating a live Jurassic Park that would be incomparable to Spielberg’s imaginative Jurassic Park,” Kim told the press last fall.
Why this effort? Science or publicity, no one knows for sure, but Henrik Poinar, evolutionary geneticist from Mc Master University in Hamilton, Canada, pulls no punches: “There is no good scientific reason to bring back an extinct species,” he says.