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How dodo de-extinction is helping rescue the extraordinary pink pigeon

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Vikash Tatayah had never heard of Colossal Biosciences until the Texas-based company announced plans to recover the dodo last year. Widely known for wanting to “de-extinct” the woolly mammoth, he said he was making progress in genetically engineering dodo-like birds, which would then be brought to Mauritius, one of the Mascarene islands in the Indian Ocean and the dodo’s only habitat. before extinction.

As conservation director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Tatayah had worked for decades to conserve the country’s surviving endemic species, from the Mauritian fruit bat to the rosy pigeon, a relative of the dodo. So he was surprised that his organization wasn’t aware of it and was somewhat skeptical about the motives behind the multimillion-dollar project. “I was the first to say, ‘Wait. There are many other species of plants and animals in Mauritius that are threatened. That money could be better spent.’”

Whether genetic engineering should be used for conservation remains controversial, with many especially fearing extinction. But a year later, Tatayah sees the dodo’s possible return as a way to simultaneously rescue endangered species, particularly the pink pigeon. “We are really looking forward to the dodo’s return,” he says.

It’s often overlooked that the biotechnological advances Colossal and others are working on could have important co-benefits. They could pave the way for the use of genetic tools to quickly help a whole range of animals resist the pressures they face from a changing environment. “The pace of change is faster than natural evolution…

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