An image shot by a brilliant photographer from Poland, Sebastian Lasek. Wild cattle, such as these bison as well as others like the Heck cattle, have been used in Pleistocene rewilding programmes in Europe. These programmes aim to introduce populations of wild cattle to replace the aurochs that were made extinct due to hunting in the 17th century. The idea is, that by introducing megafauna into ecosystems, a natural chain of events will restore ecosystems to the state they were in during the Pleistocene era (long before humans).
Scientists are still in the early stages of testing rewilding programmes. It is important to note that rewilding experiments can go wrong, and reintroducing megafauna (large animals) into the wild can have dramatically undesired results. This month’s National Geographic magazine explored the ethics of cloning the woolly mammoth back into existence. The split over de-extiction initiatives seems to be between people who were emotionally scarred by Jurassic Park, and those who weren’t. However, it is important that overenthusiastic scientists weigh up the pro’s and con’s of rewilding.
National Geographic and SOOANG are working in collaboration on a project to clone the woolly mammoth back into existence. According to scientists, the woolly mammoth’s large hooves once ploughed the grasslands of Europe. But after they became extinct, those ecosystems dried up. Re-introducing the woolly mammoth to the wild could dramatically change European wilderness.
Bisons and auroch-like cattle can be thought of as the first step in judging whether more ambitious Pleistocene rewilding programmes, such as resurrecting the woolly mammoth could work.