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‘De-extinct’ – World Animal Day Poem 2017

Susan Richardson is World Animal Day’s poet-in-residence and in this poem for World Animal Day 2017, she focuses on the controversial issue of de-extinction. At the bottom of the page you can click on the link to hear Susan reciting ‘De-extinct’.  

“‘De-extinct’ began as an exploration of whether bringing extinct creatures back from the dead might be a realistic strategy for stalling human-induced species loss, a subject on which I focused in my first World Animal Day poem in 2015. The more I read about it, however, the more disturbed I felt about de-extinction processes such as genetic engineering, and the serious implications for animal welfare. Disturbed, too, by the fact that if we begin to believe that extinction’s not ‘forever’ and there’s always a chance that endangered species can be brought back at some later stage, we’ll surely be less bothered about trying to save them in the first place.

The possibility of cloning a shark hasn’t been mooted yet but if scientific hubris ever moves us in that direction, the creature who’s at the heart of ‘De-extinct’ – the broad-finned, flat-bodied angel shark – would be a prime candidate, for it’s categorised as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and has already been declared locally extinct in the North Sea.”

Poem: De-extinct

If we can inject an emptied egg
with DNA from a Pyrenean ibex 

then embed it in a host domestic goat;
if we can tweak the genomes 

of current cattle stocks
and strategically breed 

till we’ve got an almost-aurochs;
if we can fashion fur and tusk 

from mammoth cash;
fabricate great auks and engineer

sheer redemption –
we won’t need to untrawl, 

de-dredge, bid
bycatch bye-bye 

for we can match
and mix, do 

and un-die, get high
on tech, spawn sci-fact 

from sci-fi, we can win
an extant grant 

to forge pectoral fins like wings,
we can flatten its form, 

pattern its back, gloss over
loss of habitat, install it 

offshore, ignore
its first flawed ambush 

of prey and say, Yay!
we can resurrect an angel.

Listen to Susan reciting ‘De-extinct’.

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