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Cloning Wild Life: zoos, captivity, and the future of endangered animals

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Carrie Friese
NYU Press (September 2013)

The natural world is marked by an ever-increasing loss of varied habitats, a growing number of species extinctions, and a full range of new kinds of dilemmas posed by global warming. At the same time, humans are also working to actively shape this natural world through contemporary bioscience and biotechnology. In Cloning Wild Life, Carrie Friese posits that cloned endangered animals in zoos sit at the apex of these two trends, as humans seek a scientific solution to environmental crisis. Often fraught with controversy, cloning technologies, Friese argues, significantly affect our conceptualizations of and engagements with wildlife and nature.

By studying animals at different locations, Friese explores the human practices surrounding the cloning of endangered animals. She visits zoos - the San Diego Zoological Park, the Audubon Center in New Orleans, and the Zoological Society of London - to see cloning and related practices in action, as well as attending academic and medical conferences and interviewing scientists, conservationists, and zookeepers involved in cloning. Ultimately, she concludes that the act of recalibrating nature through science is what most disturbs us about cloning animals in captivity, revealing that debates over cloning become, in the end, a site of political struggle between different human groups. Moreover, Friese explores the implications of the social role that animals at the zoo play in the first place - how they are viewed, consumed, and used by humans for our own needs. A unique study uniting sociology and the study of science and technology, Cloning Wild Life demonstrates just how much bioscience reproduces and changes our ideas about the meaning of life itself.

  • Dr Carrie Friese is lecturer in sociology at LSE.

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"In this brilliant study of cloned wild life, Carrie Friese adds a whole new dimension to the study of reproduction, illustrating vividly and persuasively how social and biological reproduction are inextricably bound together, and why this matters."
Sarah Franklin, author of Dolly Mixtures: the remaking of genealogy

"Carrie Friese’s Cloning Wild Life: zoos, captivity and the future of endangered animals is a terrific book. Friese begins with the observation that efforts to clone endangered animals have in general been well received by the public, in contrast to the outcry and suspicion that has greeted cloning animals raised for food, and cloning of humans. Controversy, instead, has been internal to zoo and conservation science. In a subtle delineation of the contours and stakes of these insider controversies, Friese goes far beyond the usual pro- and con-discourses about novel biotechnologies. She shows us nuclear transfer cloning as a flexible, powerful technology that connects many possible views of nature found and made and what it might be to conserve it. Excitingly, she also argues that cloning in relation to the conservation of endangered species is playing an important role in the current expansion of our understanding of genetics beyond the nucleus."
Charis Thompson, author of Making Parents: the ontological choreography of reproductive technologies


Cloning Wild Life