Why extinction doesn't have to be forever anymore

Just over ten years ago, a little, lanky goat was born at a research facility in Spain. At first glance, the kid was nothing special. She had wobbly legs, tousled fur and toffee-colored eyes, but this goat was unlike any other creature born on the planet. This was the first animal ever to be brought back from extinction.

The newborn was a particular type of mountain goat known as a bucardo. Hundreds of years ago, the animals were commonplace on the precipitous cliffs of the Pyrenees, the mountain range that divides France and Spain. But then mankind hunted them to extinction. The last known bucardo, an elderly female called Celia, died of natural causes at the turn of the millennium. After that, there were no more bucardos left.

Scientists however, had the foresight to collect some of Celia’s cells while she was still alive, and after she passed, the cells were used for cloning. The chocolate-colored kid was the result. A defining moment in the history of Earth, her arrival marked an end to the finality of extinction.

They call it “de-extinction,” the ability of scientists to resurrect extinct species from the DNA recipes encoded in their cells. Sadly the little kid had breathing problems and died just a few minutes after she was born, so the bucardo was not just the first animal ever to be de-extincted, it was also the first animal ever to go extinct twice.