Social Magazine Lets think social

Stewart Brand is a man for whom big ideas are a way of life. He is an entrepreneur by choice who has founded many organizations like Long Now Foundation, The WELL, Global Business Network etc. For nearly five decades, Stewart Brand has been hanging around the cutting edge of whatever is the most cutting thing of the day. Largely because he's discovered it and become fascinated with it long before anyone else has even noticed it.

With biotech accelerating four times faster than digital technology, the revival of extinct species is becoming possible. Stewart Brand plans to not only bring species back but restore them to the wild. New technology in genetics may allow us, for the first time, to bring back extinct species by using ancient DNA and splicing or cloning it.

Granted, resurrecting the woolly mammoth using ancient DNA may sound like mad science. Find some of its DNA frozen in the tundra, and scientists just might be able to resurrect it. But Brand’s Revive and Restore project has an entirely rational goal: to learn what causes extinctions so we can protect currently endangered species, preserve genetic and biological diversity, repair depleted ecosystems, and essentially “undo harm that humans have caused in the past.” Revive & Restore’s mission is to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species.

I personally feel that people like Stewart Brand are doing a remarkable job by addressing to the environmental needs of the extinct and endangered species. He has been working on genetic rescue for Asian elephants (from a lethal virus), black-footed ferrets (from lethal plague and inbreeding), and Hawaiian native birds (from avian malaria).

His work also includes bringing back from extinction: passenger pigeons, woolly mammoths, heath hens (a New England grouse), and great auks (a north Atlantic “penguin.”). These projects include sequencing and assembling DNA (ancient, cryo-preserved, and living), bioinformatics analysis, genome editing, and captive breeding.

These are some of the coolest animals we might never meet but definitely a bold and strong step towards restoration. Stewart Brand is continuously building opportunities for the revival and restoration of the extinct species. We surely need more people like him, don’t we?

When you scan through a newspaper or magazine, all the human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the same sorry cyclic dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness, and even the technology is predictable if you know the science. Human nature doesn’t change much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly.

They're cute, they're cuddly and they've just been brought back from the brink of extinction.

Pandas are the most culturally valuable animals that are found native to South Central China. And yes, I wonder how many of you know this? Pandas are also the National Symbol of China and generate significant economic benefits for local communities through ecotourism and other activities. A global icon that's just been taken off the endangered list, largely due to Chinese conservation efforts. But how exactly did they do it?

During the early 1960s, China’s State Council called upon the provinces to set aside land for the protection of China’s wildlife. Twenty years ago, China became aware of the environmental costs of their massive industrial growth, and set aside over 2,500 nature preserves throughout the country. The reserves are intended to protect the Giant Panda’s natural habitat.

Pandas play a crucial role in China’s Bamboo forests by spreading seeds and helping in vegetation to grow. The success is due to Chinese efforts to recreate and repopulate bamboo forests. Bamboo makes up some 99% of their diet, without which they are likely to starve. Pandas must eat 12kg (26 lbs.) to 38 kg worth of bamboo each day to maintain their energy needs. The panda’s habitat also serves an important place as it caters to the livelihood of local communities, who use it for food, income, fuel for cooking and medicine.

There are now an estimated total of 2,060 pandas, of which 1,864 are adults - a number which has seen their status changed from "endangered" to "vulnerable", on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List.

While China has done a remarkable job, there are still some problems which the Panda’s might have to face due to humans. Some are listed below:

Bamboo, the Giant Panda’s primary food, flowers once every 10 to 100 years depending on the species and then dies off. Historically, when bamboo in one area died off the Giant Pandas would move to a new area. The expansion of human populations resulting in roads, towns, power lines and logging for both fire wood and agriculture have made migration difficult for the Giant Pandas. In order to reduce this problem, corridors must be built within the reserves to allow the Giant Pandas to move freely from one area to another when the bamboo dies off.

Logging is a problem for the growth of the bamboo, as bamboo grows in the shade of the large fir trees. Logging has also resulted in the reduction of large old growth trees, the favorite spot for mothers with cubs to den or nest after they have a cub. This results in fewer safe dry places for the mother to raise her cub. Scientists are experimenting with building artificial dens to resemble old growth trees.

Isolation is also a problem in the mating of wild Giant Pandas The same problems preventing Giant Pandas from finding new food when the bamboo dies also prevent male and female Giant Pandas from finding one another during the mating season. Consequently, building corridors is also extremely important to the mating process.

The Panda Reserves are now challenging other countries by offering the following new practices:

• Protect the forest or habitat of the Giant Pandas

• Protect bamboo, the Giant Pandas’ major food source

• Provide corridors for Giant Panda migrations between habitat areas

• Patrol the reserves to prevent poaching and logging

• Patrol the reserves to search for sick or injured Giant Pandas

• Take sick or injured Giant Pandas to nearest panda hospital for care

• Conduct research on Giant Panda behavior, mating, breeding, diseases, etc.

• Educate tourists and visitors about Giant Panda protection

• Support communities adjacent to the reserves to minimize the need to use the Giant Panda habitat for their livelihood

• Educate local residents about the value of conserving the Giant Pandas and how tourism to the region is beneficial

The panda conservation projects on the ground in China are moving towards a variety of initiatives, including:

• Nature reserve protection to ensure that the reserve borders are patrolled and no illegal hunting or logging takes place inside them.

• Community development projects such as providing wood saving stoves to limit the impact of wood-fuel harvesting on the panda's forests.

• Research and monitoring work, such as setting up infrared cameras to record panda movements in the Minshan and Qinling Mountains.

China got the Panda’s off the endangered list, can we also do the same?

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