For centuries, man has been tampering with the DNA of animals to create new species. This is how most modern breeds of dogs evolved. But now, in England, Holland, Canada and New Mexico scientists are tweaking DNA backwards.
They’re investigating the possibility of recreating extinct animals. It’s a radical and bold programme, called rewilding. And it sounds familiar. The concept of rewilding, or bringing extinct animals back from the ancient past was the storyline of the 1993 movie, ‘Jurassic Park’.
One hour’s drive from Amsterdam is the Dutch Serengeti, officially known as Oostvaardersplassen. It’s a ground-breaking project in more ways than one. Here, Red deer, Konik horses and Heck cattle graze side by side in an experiment to see how important their role is in returning the nature reserve to its primeval wilderness state. Konik horses were once thought to be the remnants of the early European horse and Heck cattle were first bred in the 1920s and 30s in an attempt to recreate the ancient auroch - the last of which died in 1620. The Tauros Programme has taken this one step further and their Tauros bulls resemble the auroch more and more with each generation.
From Holland we cross the channel to the UK and meet George Monbiot, a leading pioneer of the rewilding movement. He is on a personal mission to reset his country's vision of the wild. Meanwhile, in the deserts of New Mexico, prehistoric reptiles are about to make their first appearance in 12,000 years. Will this be Jurassic Park come to life?
Canada also boasts an enviable amount of wildlife. But despite the countryside’s tough and rugged looks, some of these populations are extremely vulnerable, in particular certain species of caribou. The film reveals the latest initiatives currently underway to reverse the trend.
But who exactly is the wilderness for? If we are struggling to keep the modern species in our wilderness areas alive, will we be able to cope with ones from the past as well? Will we upset the fragile balance of our ecosystems by reintroducing extinct species and plants? And if we can, are we really sure we want to?
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