Talk of cloning typically inspires speculation and worry about duplicating people. How anthropocentric of us. Other animal species could benefit from cloning technology, too, maybe long before humans do. As the article by Robert P. Lanza, Betsy L. Dresser and Philip Damiani describes, beginning on page 84, it is now possible to clone animals that are on the edge of extinction. Optimists are even hopeful that they might be able to clone some animals that are slightly over that edge, having vanished within recent decades.
The process for multiplying endangered animals--some rare panda, for example--is probably not exactly what might have been envisioned most commonly in science fiction. We can't (yet?) just pluck any cell from our panda and then grow a whole animal from it. Cloning depends on merging DNA from a body cell into an egg cell stripped of its own DNA, then implanting this composite into a female for gestation. On the face of it, that's not necessarily any help, because the females of an endangered species (and their ova) are by definition in short supply. Conventional breeding and artificial insemination would generally still be easier. But that bottleneck can be avoided by borrowing an egg cell and a nurturing womb from a closely related nonthreatened species. Researchers hope soon to be able to point to gaurs born from cows, ocelots born from South American cats called oncillas, and so on. This approach may not work for all species, but it could help pull many back from extinction.