Malaysian scientists are planning to clone the critically endangered leatherback turtle in a last ditch attempt to reverse the fortunes of its declining population in the country. The scheme, first reported in the New Straits Times, is a joint project between scientists and the Malaysian Government. The cloning technique will be trialled on the far more common green turtle before eventually being used on the leatherbacks.
Malaysia’s Terengganu province used to be home to one of the world’s largest colonies of leatherback turtles but numbers have declined by 99% since the 1960s. Global populations of the turtle have also been sharply declining over the last 40 years and it is now listed as critically endangered. This has prompted this latest conservation scheme in Malaysia.
However, some scientists are unconvinced that cloning is a viable long term solution to the problem of declining numbers. The world’s most famous clone, Dolly the sheep, was recently put down after developing a degenerative lung condition.