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of sperm and embryo storage in use with domestic cattle is the product of 20 years of research, millions of dollars, and thousands of specimens—a critical matrix for investigation and discovery. A vast amount of research would have to be undertaken before a technology of embryo and sperm storage and transfer as reliable as that in use with cattle could be available for wild species without domestic analogs. But where is the economic incentive for such research? Where are the animals? The apparently simple techniques of artificial insemination, for example, have been successful with scarcely 20 wild species of mammals. Nonetheless, development of the scientific understanding necessary to long-term propagation is a technological fulcrum for many intensive species care programs. In Chapter 33, Seal discusses some of the challenges.
TECHNOLOGY IS EXPENSIVE
Unhappily, high cost is characteristic of high-tech applications, and whereas the capability and the money to apply advanced technologies to preservation is located mostly in wealthy northern countries, the largest problems of species loss are in poor tropical countries. Money used for high-tech intervention strategies obviously can not be used to preserve habitat. For less-developed countries, habitat preservation is the only realistic strategy, unless help comes from outside.
Whatever the help, no available amounts of money can ensure the protection of many species in nature, even vertebrates, such as the addax and scimitar-horned oryx from the Sahel or Guam’s kingfisher and rail. Ex situ care and biotechnology are their only hope. Besides, support from different sources is usually restricted to different purposes. Except in local education, research, and propagation programs in zoos, for example, municipal funds are usually unavailable to international species preservation. In such differentiation of source, competition for funds between preservation options can be diminished. After all, ex situ care and technology are used only after it is evident that conventional conservation efforts could fail.
Can technology be used to ensure continuing evolution? Both intensive management and habitat reduction reduce the chances of directional habitat-responsive evolution. And in small unmanaged populations, genetic drift is much more powerful than natural selection. But before worrying about whether species must continue to evolve to survive, please reflect upon the time scale of concern. The profoundly immediate problem is to save as many species as possible through the next 150 years.
It seems inevitable that most large land vertebrates and many plants eventually will survive only as wards of humans, scientifically managed or cared for, even reestablished, at some point. Because of an overall decline of diversity, those species that persist through the feeble efforts of science and technology will become proportionately more important. Saving 200 of 2,000 mammal species seems more important than saving 200 of 4,300. Furthermore, it is the larger forms, among animals if not plants, that will most likely profit from these intervention strategies;