Cloning the wild mouflon


  • Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2006 meetings of the American Anthropological Association, in a panel on ‘Animal Salvation’ and at the Center for 21st Century Studies STMS workshop at UWM. I thank Genese Sodikoff, Harriet Ritvo, Paul Brodwin, Thomas Malaby, Bruce Fetter, Barb Ley and four anonymous AT reviewers for their perceptive comments and suggestions.


In 2001, a collaboration between Edinburgh scientists and a research team in Teramo, Italy, made the first surviving clone of an endangered mammal: a wild sheep species called the mouflon, indigenous to the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus. Amidst fierce debates on the ethics of cloning, this application of biotechnology to wildlife conservation appeared relatively felicitous. Will cloning techniques bring redemption for the immanent loss of genetic resources? How would this alter the very nature and culture of biodiversity protection? On an island of notorious shepherds, wilderness and wildlife are increasingly valued over the objects of traditional pastoral work. Set against the background of ongoing tensions over the creation of a new national park in Sardinia, the story of the cloned mouflon signified the power of new science to redefine the politics of biodiversity, undermining the cultural authority of shepherd towns over human-animal relations.