Friday, May 23, 2008

A Tasmanian Tiger comeback?

I've always been interested in the fate of mammals that have become extinct within the timespan of human occupation on the planet, and one of the most intriguing of these cases is the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine, a unique marsupial carnivore from Australasia that some die-hards reckon still lingers on in the vast reaches of the outback...

But recent news reveals that we may not even have to keep our fingers crossed about their existence any more. Because one group of scientists have succeeded in "resurrecting" the Thylacine's gene:

Scientists said Tuesday they had "resurrected" a gene from the extinct Tasmanian tiger by implanting it in a mouse, raising the future possibility of bringing animals such as dinosaurs back to life.

In what they describe as a world first, researchers from Australian and U.S. universities extracted a gene from a preserved specimen of the dog-like marsupial - formally known as a thylacine - and revived it in a mouse embryo.

"This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism," said research leader Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne.

The announcement was hailed as raising the possibility of recreating extinct animals.
Mike Archer, dean of science at the University of New South Wales, who led an attempt to clone the thylacine when he was director of the Australian Museum, called it "one very significant step in that direction." "I'm personally convinced this is going to happen," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "I've got another group working on another extinct Australian animal and we think this is highly probable."

"We hope that with advances in techniques that maybe one day that might be possible, but certainly as science stands at the moment, we are not able to do that, unfortunately," he said.

Well I'm not so sure that is so unfortunate. Although I do agree with the notion of say bringing back species that were lost because of our own human intervention - i.e. the Thylacine, or the Passenger Pigeon, or the Dodo - its an entirely different ballgame to dabble in the DNA of groups of creatures for which the Earth is just not suited for any more.

Where on Earth would you house a pack of marauding T-rexs? And what kind of food provisions would you have to make for a herd of ravenous Diplodicus?

Are we really ready to deal with such collosal heachaches when we are already making a mess of trying to mamage our present day environment???

Thursday, May 15, 2008

There are some places you'd just rather be...

Thekka Wewa, Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka 2008

This is a view just a few minutes jeep ride away from where my uncle has just built himself a jungle hideaway (check the link above to find out more)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Its been painful but all of my work recently has taken me away from wildlife and only recently have I been able to emerge from the bottomless pit that is engineering documentaries.

After months of researching concrete thickness and the hazards of working in marine clay, I am happy to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, quite literally.

And apart from going all technical, I also wrote and produced two episodes for a documentary series about Asia's dynamic cinema industry - specifically Iran and India (or rather Bollywood, which is a world totally unto itself). Which was fun, and completely different to anything I've worked on for a while.

After taking a couple of months break, I now find my plate full again, and what a mixed offering I have lined up for the next year. Not quite wildlife though - but I'm working on that.

Have signed on to a very intriguing project about cultural taboos though, and there are animals involved in some of these stories, although not quite in the way you'd imagine. There are some controversial customs we'll be featuring and although I am personally horrified by some of these 'traditions', it is important to bring them to the attention of the audience-at-large, especially since some of them have been practiced unnoticed for hundreds of years - just wait 'til you see the story from Sulawesi....

Anyway that project is in production right now and will be coming to TV screens in the last quarter of the year. I am also working on another travelogue series which will see me directing in Kerala for a few days in July, and maybe Bali a bit later on.

Big news for me though is a stint in Darwin with an aboriginal community in a couple of months' time - more news on that as the time draws nearer...

Anyway just a bit of news to let everyone who is interested know, that I am alive and well and coping with the rat race as best as I can.

Been out of touch, but am back with a new reserve of energy and a new phone number, so beware...

All the best to you all,

PS - as the more observant of you will have noticed, the blog has migrated to my company website address. Firewalker Productions is launched and has a virtual life at least for now. The original website was about as interesting as watching paint dry, so hopefully this is a better solution, especially when my fieldwork starts to progress...