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gypseyman
24th June 2002, 10:08 AM
Whether you’re against it or for it, cloning has become not only a scientific experiment, but a medical reality.

Think Jurassic Park – the Steven Spielberg major motion picture that made history when the DNA of dinosaurs was cloned to bring them back to life.

That sort of thing has been happening quite a bit in real life and, to a large extent, causing some controversy.

And the latest journey down that experimental road is the “revival” of the long-extinct Tasmanian Tiger.

The Tasmanian Tiger looks somewhat like a wolf, with fangs and has the largest gapes of any mammal. It runs like a wolf, has stripes of a tiger and a pouch like a kangaroo.

Scientists in Australia are now preparing to breathe a new lease of life into the Tasmanian Tiger, an animal crossed between a kangaroo and a wombat. It was last sighted in 1936 and was officially declared extinct in 1986.

How do they plan to bring back an animal that has not roamed the earth in more than 66 years?

The exact same way Spielberg suggested – by cloning the DNA. The clones of the DNA were taken from a 136-year-old Tasmanian Tiger foetus.

Televised around the world

And all this will be televised in The End of Extinction: Cloning The Tasmanian Tiger.

The documentary will premiere over Astro’s Discovery Channel (channel 50) on July 7 at 8pm.

“What Professor Mike Archer and his team are attempting is as scientifically-exciting and technically-challenging as splitting the atom or landing a man on the moon,” said Maurice Paleau, Discovery Channel’s Executive Producer for the film.

In 1999, Professor Archer, Director of the Australian Museum, discovered that the alcohol solution in which the preserved species was kept in, allowed for the animals organs to be preserved.

This included the Tasmanian Tiger’s organs, muscle and bone marrow tissue.

“We are excited to capture this amazing story, bringing the Tasmanian Tiger back to life on television screens around the world.”

And amazing it is. If you follow the Tasmanian Tiger’s timeline, you’ll see that it’s not been confirmed when the Tasmanian Tiger became extinct.

Some 3,300 years ago, Tasmanian Tigers roamed mainland Australia and Papua New Guinea, as well as Tasmania.

A mummified Tasmanian Tiger found in a cave on the Nullarbor Plains in 1965, as well as fossils, bones and Aboriginal paintings of the animal, verify it’s existence from this early moment in time.

But their reign was shortlived, and almost 1,000 years later, they started disappearing from the mainland, just before the Europeans began settling in Australia.

Once Tasmania was declared an independent country from Australia around the early 1800s, the Government declared a bounty on Tasmanian Tigers, as they claimed that they killed the main livestock, sheep.

This continued into the early 1900s, and by 1926, the London Zoo bought the second last Tasmanian Tiger for £150 (about RM825).

The last Tasmanian Tiger was captured and sold to the Hobart Zoo in 1933, and died in captivity there three years later.

Reported sightings

More than 50 years later, there were almost 300 reported sightings of the Tasmanian Tiger, but none of those reports were ever made official or were reliable enough to be considered true. This placed the Tasmanian Tiger at one point, along the same rankings as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness.

In May 1999, The Australian Museum decided to do some research in cloning a Tasmanian Tiger, and a year later, announced that the DNA they took from a preserved pup in their museum collection was good enough to begin tests.

And last month, for the first time, the DNA was enzymatically duplicated successfully, resulting in millions of copies of DNA fragments which were undamaged.

Scientists are currently looking for suitable hosts to carry the cloned-DNA. The potential birth of the first cloned Tasmanian Tiger pup is currently scheduled for the year 2010.

To clone an extinct species

“We were told by so many people in the scientific community that it was near to impossible to clone an extinct species,” says Professor Archer. “

“But now the dream is starting to become a reality, we’re not there yet, but we have achieved a significant breakthrough by confirming the existence of the Tasmanian Tiger DNA and sequencing.”

If this project is successful, it will go down in history as the first time that an extinct animal has been cloned.

It took nature more than 50 million years to evolve and create this strange and unique creature.

Can the science world recreate nature’s gift of life in just under a decade?

Tune in to the Discovery Channel to find out more about cloning, the scientific and ethical hurdles, and what the future holds in store for the rebirth of the Tasmanian Tiger.

By Terrina Hussein: terrinahussein@nstp.com.my

wyles
24th June 2002, 02:22 PM
There have been many unverified sightings of Tasmanian Tigers since they were deemed extinct. I used to work with a guy who swears blind he saw one, and often went out in the hopes of catching a photo of one.

The fact that Tasmania was never declared an independent country from Australia (The capital Hobart was founded in 1804), may cause one to doubt the validity of some of the other "facts" mentioned. Still....it will happen one day.

Re-pet???