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The guy is crazy. He goes out into the wilderness at one point in this is incredible story where he needed to bring these elk back to his his tundra . He picked up the elk somewhere around Moscow put them in the back of a flatbed truck and by himself drove thousands of miles across Russia in this truck that was essentially held together by duct tape halfway through it , it hits an ice patch it the Axel breaks he goes into a debt and he’s out there and the elk are trying to get out of the truck and he’s essentially fighting the elk to keep them in the truck for hours waiting for someone to come by to pick him up . This is the guy who goes off and in a boat into the Arctic Circle to get Muskoka then fills a boat with these things . It’s , it’s really such an over the top guy he’s amazing . You know the Atlantic Monthly did a wonderful article a few months back at police to seen Park with with great photos that people can find and these guys , I mean they’re the real deal that the kind of scientists who live out there and do their work and you know we’re never going to leave the tundra and they’re just trying to save it is fascinating .
And the philosophical I like there was something , and I’m not sure if it was Sergio for it was in the Quito who said , raising the question about what made humans different from other apex predators and oh an egg. I guess it was surgery who said . At first we were like all the other predators . But , he said . We never stopped . We never got rid of all , what do you mean by that . I thought that was .
Well , it’s a great point. So in police are seen parked they’re not just gonna put eventually woolly mammoths and bison . They also want to stock it with predators because most in in in the world predators live with their environment they hunt a certain area which essentially keeps the numbers down , but they stay in their area and they don’t eat beyond what they can eat , they don’t continue to to populate in population and eat and eat in pipeline pipeline , they have their area they eat what they need in their area and they defend their area from other predators , but they essentially keep it you know in tune essentially people don’t do that we expand we eat everything there is there and then we expanded the next plays and eat everything that’s there were much more like viruses or like something like , a bacteria or something like that . Not to be negative . I mean I don’t , I’m a person I love people , but we are not similar to other predators and and so , you know , the Russians are other who live there are very in tune with this their their environment and they they want to put predators and eventually because predators are part of the equation and keeping it sort of stable .
Spend there’s wrecked his book is called Walsh take another break and come back in a moment you’re listening to Radio last.
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This is really a Western-backed for breezy back net or a conversation with the writer Ben mess. Rick , we’re talking about his book woolly the true story of the quest to revive one of history’s most iconic extinct creatures . I want to ask you about , but the dilemma . So George Church so he’s passionate about this idea , but he starts to wonder about the ethical questions involved right and he he comes to believe I think this was in 2014 or so that that the idea of doing this with William Enoch recreating a woolly mammoth was secondary to helping endangered elephants there . These 2 are things that have the same they seem like conflicting ideas for him . I mean there for him . There are these questions about whether a mammoth population would in fact be harmful for elephant population so he’s trying to work these things out ethically talk a little bit about that part .
Sure , so one of the main sort of concerns of the woolly mammoth revival project is what’s going to happen to the elephant so the Asian elephants endangered to make woolly mammoths you essentially need to use an Asian neighbor there’s an elephant embryo. The original plan was to have Asian elephants give birth to these mammoth but the fear was that number one , you’re taking attention away from an endangered species to essentially recreate an extinct species , and is the money . Not going to go to the Asian elephant , are we going to harm these elephants trying to do it . Are you gonna kill a lot of baby elephants that could have been born George doesn’t want that to be the project . And so the goal was to find a way to do this ethically and also to help the Asian elephant population or what we’re really is amazing is what happened was the Ringling Brothers . The circus . You know , is closing down they had all these Asian elephants that are no longer in use . They’re donating their elephants to George Church in the revival project George Church and Stewart Brand went down to their , they have an elephant reserve down in Florida . And while he was there , he met with these Asian elephants and he was told about an incredible problem going on the Asian elephant population , most of them now are not dying from hunters they’re dying from herpes herpes in the elephant population is an incredibly dangerous deadly disease that has killed about half of the elephants that are out there and Georgia’s responses . Well let’s fix that first so he’s he’s on the verge right now of curing elephant herpes . As an aside , he might be on the verge of curing human herpes yeah but but the goal is to sort of make the Asian elephant more healthy in part of this project and another thing , George , you know the way he talks about that is , you’re not just you know , making woolly mammoths you’re making Asian elephants that can live in the snow . Yeah , you’re essentially creating a hybrid that can live in a much larger area . The Asian elephant is partly it going extinct or endangered right now because it’s environment is disappearing but there’s this huge area of the world the tundra that’s empty nothing live there if you can make elephants that can live there , you’re essentially saving the elephant as much as you’re taking away from it , but the ethics of it you know are understandably controversial . Yeah the . He doesn’t want to be experimenting on Asian elephants now and so one of the other areas that they’ve moved into now is rather than using an elephant to give birth to this woolly mammoth they’re going to create an artificial womb he actually that if you think yes synthetic uterus . So there are other groups working on this as well , but they’re on the verge of doing this , there is actually already an artificial womb are synthetic uterus that ice ice but I’ve seen that that can be used for sheep . So this is something , this is technology that that’s happening now . If he can get to the point where he can make this baby mammoth outside of the Asian elephant , you won’t be harming the mother elephants but even that’s not enough George doesn’t want to create these babies , then they have them die , you know right now , there’s a company and I talk about my book in South Korea that clones dogs like you can send a little piece of your dog , a little bit of their flesh out a little bit of their hair and these people for $100,000 will will make you a dog and that’s exactly the same as your dog and you know lots of people have done this already . The problem is is that you know only one out of every 3 of their baby dog survived so there’s this kind of Island of Dr. Moreau going on there in the basement , where these , these are are mutated dogs are coming out and dying and and that’s not what George wants to do with elephants obviously because these are extinct and beautiful creatures . So the goal is to get to the point where you know you’re not going to be experimenting where you’re going to basically have a factory growing woolly mammoths and it isn’t sort of harming the elephant species .
You know , there’s all of this raises these questions of boundaries. I mean , once we become more and more enlightened about you know crisper technology and you know all you know that the capacity of genes moving that idea of the supposed to reading DNA to writing it as you say it raises these questions about how far you go without doing something dangerous or damaging arse are natural . I mean you tell the story about this this transgenic mouse . It had been created and then there was this question of is it even the mouse . It was before . Based on the way we’ve been messing with it .