A Tasmanian tiger foetus was discovered a wee while ago, preserved in such a way that allowed it’s DNA to survive. Blurring the lines between science and science fiction, a journey has been embarked on by Australian scientists which may see the now extinct Tasmanian tiger re-introduced into the wild. Loaded with ethical issues, it’s a project that fascinates, whatever your stance. Here’s what the person who found the foetus said.
What do you fear about unleashing rabid tigers in the wild?
There’s a long way to go before we’ll be unleashing specimens into the natural environment, and many hurdles to overcome before the current samples of tasmanian tiger DNA can effectively be transformed into an actual living tiger. As for fears about reintroducing the tiger to the wild, it’s not like there’ll be giant genetic mutants roaming in packs and bearing their fangs at tourists.
How long do you think it would have taken the Tasmanian tiger to learn how to rollerskate?
Well, the last Tasmanian tiger was sighted early last century and I think tis unlikely it would have been rollerskating anytime in the next century.
To give readers some idea of what the Tassie Tiger was like, who do you think would win a fight inside a cage, ‘Batwoman or a Tasse tiger’?
Well, to be honest, I’m more familiar with those in the cat family, fine felines such as Catwoman, so I can’t really say.
Who is smarter – the beagle sniffers at airport customs or the tassie?
You’d have to say that to survive in the rugged Tasmanian wild, the Tassie would surely have needed to be a far more cunning critter.
Have you considered Lindy ‘the dingo did it’ Chamberlain as a possible spokesperson for the re-introduction of the tiger?
That’s an interesting proposition. There is a large and unwarranted public fear of genetic engineering to be countered with a project such as ours, but I think we’ll probably stick with a spokesperson who has a stronger relationship with science.
How successful would a re-introduced Tasmanian tiger be at ridding Queensland of the introduced cane toad?
Not very. The cane toad is actually responsible for killing many native animals – by eating much of the native animal’s traditional diet, and by secreting poison when native animals try to eat the cane toad. Even the tassie tiger wouldn’t stand a chance with one of those in it’s belly.
What sort of modifications have you considered making to the Tasmanian tiger?
Again, we’re a long way from creating another actual living Tasmanian tiger. Once we get there, and I’m confident we can, I think any..
Do you like that Pixies lyric – ‘I’ve smelled smoke from the gun named extinction’ ?
I haven’t heard The Pixies, but the dramatic levels of species extinction in the last century is very alarming ( do a web search about extinction ). Given the interconnected web of life we live within, it really should be of utmost concern to us that large proportions of species are continuing to disappear. We hope our project will stimulate thought and action about this.
You don’t think people will just think ‘oh well – as long as we sample it first, it doesn’t matter if we lose that species when we chop that forest?’
Not at all.