Harvey Webster, director of wildlife at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who works in the shadow of the museum's famous Johnstown mastodon skeleton, isn't sure that would be a good idea. "We don't know much about their behavior," he explains. "In cloning, you're just re-creating the flesh. You're not necessarily in a position to re-create the wealth of behaviors that might have been learned."
The thought of mammoths rampaging across the plains states is not a concern for Agenbroad. "I think that's hysteria," he says. "If we were ever successful and had a baby mammoth produced, its surrogate mother -- which would be an Asian elephant -- would teach it how to be an elephant."
Contrary to popular belief, the animal would also be about the same size. To see what it could look like, the natural history museum is exhibiting a re-created woolly mammoth as part of Elephants, which examines the evolution of the creatures -- raising the question of why anyone would want to reintroduce an animal already disposed of by nature.
"I have a slightly different perspective," Agenbroad explains. He sees the mammoth as akin to bison, once hunted to near-extinction by humans. "We didn't have animal friends' societies 11,000 years ago -- I've worked on mammoth kill sites, so we know that humans did it."
Webster says the role of humans in the animal's demise isn't proven, and points out another problem: Where do you reintroduce the mammoth? "There's a Pleistocene Park in Siberia," Agenbroad says. "They've made the international statement that they will take any cloned mammoth anyone can produce."
"From a curiosity standpoint, I'm sure it would attract a lot of attention," Webster considers. "But you really need to address the endpoint: What is the goal of doing it?"
"I've had a lot of legal correspondence to this effect," Agenbroad admits. "They say it's inhumane; it's not ethical to try and bring something back. I think that bringing back grizzly bears and wolves into an area where they've been eradicated by humans is not really any different than trying to bring back mammoths into an area where they've been eradicated by humans."
Fortunately, Siberia is a long way from Ohio.
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