Many yesterdays ago, India’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) announced another benefit of cloning technology: even if the Tsunami had wiped out all the members of the endangered Onge ethnic group (whose numbers were around 100 at the time) the CCMB would have been able to clone more Onge people from their DNA bank by using surrogate mothers from related ethnic groups.

The real question of course was just how ‘English’ – for instance – a child can be who was cloned from English ‘stock’ but raised in Brazil by a Portuguese-speaking family.

Science has of course a naked appetite for enquiry – and rightly so. The Onge ethnic group has already proved a source of much information for Indian, British and Malaysian scientists. If the Onges tragically went extinct, it follows that cloned specimens could further advance the interests of science.

Yet, although cloning technology may raise the man, it will not begin to recreate the language, cultural, and other envelopes that demarcate an ethnicity. A zoo, with all the best intentions, is still a zoo. Real help should go, early, to endangered communities across the world to bring them to viability. But the proper dues for our remains, whether human or ethnic, is a dignified funeral. Everything ends eventually, and no human deserves to live in the glorified fish bowl of a formalin jar.

Chuma Nwokolo

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