Spectral ecologies: De/extinction in the Pyrenees

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pHow is extinction problematised through biotechnological and ecological interventions, and how might such mediations elucidate different understandings of biotic loss and recovery? The bucardo – an endemic ibex from the Pyrenees – is the only extinct animal to have ever been cloned, and for seven short minutes in 2003, “extinction was not forever.” Using the bucardo’s extinction as a starting point, rather than an ending, this paper addresses the “spectral ecologies” of the Pyrenees. Drawing on interviews and extensive ethnographic work conducted in Spain and France, I discuss the implications of this cloning project, and examine the various ways in which it is contested. Speculative futures of bucardo clones “returning” to the Pyrenees seem unlikely, however, following the successful introductions of another subspecies of ibex to the French Pyrenees in 2014. Such events – following the mobilities and geographies of the ibex themselves – invalidate justifications for cloning in conservation. Spectral ecologies are characterised through the unsettling of – and departures from – linear temporalities. I broaden the ontological scope of species resurrection to attend to phenotypic shifts associated with ecological restoration projects, which I call “de/extinction.” De/extinction unsettles a range of epistemological assumptions concerning two of conservation’s key concepts: species and extinction. Introduced ibex in the Pyrenees are beginning to resemble the defining features of bucardo with every new generation, a fascinating reworking of the bucardo’s absence. The figure of the ghost brings to the fore multiple pasts and futures, human and nonhuman, materialising and affecting bodies in spectral ecologies. This case offers a theoretical advance to the field of extinction studies and cultural geographies in considering different meanings of “the end,” and the imagined futures of “lost” biota.</jats:p>

bucardo, cloning, de, extinction, de-extinction, ecological restoration, the Pyrenees
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Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
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