- It is not possible to clone Lonesome George now, but other endangered animals have been successfully cloned.
- In the future, cloning and further studying Lonesome George might be possible, so scientists are focusing on preserving his tissues now.
- Biobanks known as "frozen zoos" hold tissues and other remains of certain endangered animals.
The recent death of Lonesome George, the famed Galapagos tortoise believed to be the last representative of his subspecies, has many experts wondering how we should try to save other endangered and at-risk animals.
Cloning is one option. While cloning methods for reptiles are not as advanced as those for mammals, scientists also say they face other incredible obstacles.
"At the most, I could envision one male turtle of this subspecies cloned in future or maybe two males, but where are you going to get a female?" asked Martha Gomez, a senior scientist with the Audubon Nature Institute, which has one of the world's few "frozen zoos."
Frozen Zoos stockpile biological materials from a wide variety of rare and critically endangered species. The biological material is usually composed of gametes (sperm and egg cells), embryos, tissue samples, serum and other items. Together, they represent a bank vault of irreplaceable genetic information that can be preserved for possibly hundreds of years or more. In most cases, the materials are stored in holding tanks filled with liquid nitrogen.