Should we try to halt extinction?

In an age when mankind can send robots to look for life on Mars, why can’t science stop so many forms of life from being wiped out here on Earth?

The question comes amid the loss of species on such a relentless scale that conservationists call it the Sixth Mass Extinction – the fifth being the asteroid that killed the large dinosaurs. This one is driven by human activity.

One immediate focus is on the pitiful story of one of Africa’s greatest animals – in fact, its second largest mammal – the northern white rhino.

Decades of poaching have whittled down the numbers of this massive and fearsome-looking creature to a paltry band of survivors – and, because none of the usual conservation techniques have worked, the animals now total just five.

David Shukman |

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