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Re:wild and Colossal Biosciences team up to leverage revolutionary technology to save critically endangered species on the brink of extinction

With their combined expertise in biotech, innovation and conservation, the partners will accelerate efforts to prevent extinction, recover and strengthen wildlife populations, and restore ecosystems

For immediate release, March 26, 2024

Image composite includes an AI-generated image of a thylacine, which Colossal and Re:wild hope to restore as a part of this new partnership, and a photo of a Tasmanian devil. (AI image courtesy of Colossal Biosciences; Tasmanian devil photo by Aussie Ark)
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Re:wild and Colossal Biosciences are today celebrating a new, powerful partnership that aims to accelerate global efforts to save species on the brink of extinction, search for lost species, and restore key habitats for species recovery and rewilding. 

Colossal is developing de-extinction technology to bring back the legendary dodo, thylacine and woolly mammoth as re-built de-extinct species, and the new partnership will deploy this technology to revolutionize and accelerate the recovery of some of today’s species on the brink of extinction. The partners have developed a 10-year conservation strategy that brings together Re:wild’s extensive experience in wildlife and ecosystem conservation with Colossal’s advances in the fields of genomics, assisted reproductive technologies, gene editing and computational biology. 

“I have dedicated my career to protecting and recovering species that may be down to their last few individuals,” said Barney Long, senior director of conservation strategies for Re:wild. “For some of them, protecting their remaining habitat will not be enough to allow them to recover. We are at the point where we need to do something dramatically innovative. The possibilities that Colossal’s technology opens up for critically endangered species and ecosystems is game-changing.”

As Colossal’s strategic conservation partner, Re:wild will work with and guide Colossal on the company’s work related to rewilding, protecting and recovering threatened species, and working with global and local partners. Together Colossal and Re:wild will focus on:

  • Genetic Rescue:

    • The partnership will support or create conservation breeding programs with local partners to utilize Colossal’s de-extinction technologies to help species on the brink of extinction, and support their restoration in the wild. 

  • Supporting the Search for Lost Species:

    • Colossal and Re:wild will work with and support local partners in searching for at least 50 lost species in the next five years and catalyzing conservation for those rediscovered. 

  • International Best Practices:

    • As part of this partnership, Re:wild and Colossal will be guided by the IUCN SSC ‘Guiding Principles on Creating Proxies of Extinct Species for Conservation Benefit,’ the IUCN SSC guidelines for reintroductions and other conservation translocations, and other global guidance documentation that the IUCN SSC or other institutions create.

  • Rewilding:

    • The partnership will support local partners to reintroduce more than 30 threatened species back to their native ecosystems as part of a new species reintroduction fund.

    • The partnership will work with local partners and governments to restore at least three key sites.


    • As a part of the partnership, Re:wild will advise Colossal on the ecological feasibility of introducing re-built de-extinct species to their native ecosystems, while governments and other experts will advise on the legal, social and ethical feasibility. All of this work will be done in close collaboration with local communities, governments, organizations, and Indigenous peoples. 

“This partnership represents the next step in building Colossal’s conservation technologies into a revolutionary tool in the fight against biodiversity loss,” said Colossal’s Chief Animal Officer Matt James. “Merging Colossal and Re:wild’s collective conservation efforts, while bringing our scientific expertise to more of their projects will greatly expand the reach of our technology and help to ensure we can save as many species as possible.” 

In partnership with local governments, conservation organizations and communities, Re:wild and Colossal will focus initially on the following threatened species: 

  • Asian elephant

  • African forest elephant

  • African savanna elephant

  • Northern white rhino

  • Sumatran rhino

  • Pink pigeon

  • Victorian grassland earless dragon

  • Tasmanian devil

“By establishing a core focus and combining the strengths of each organization, we are on track to a truly monumental conservation win,” said Colossal’s Chief Science Officer Beth Shapiro.

Some of the species that the partners will focus on will benefit from advanced reproductive technology paired with reintroduction efforts, while others will benefit from genetic rescue and habitat protection and restoration. 

For example, both wild and captive Asian elephants are at risk from a deadly elephant herpes virus. Colossal has been working with Paul Ling, a virologist at Baylor College of Medicine, to develop a vaccine for the herpes disease, which is particularly lethal for elephant calves. A vaccine could help increase the population of Asian elephants because more calves would survive to adulthood and eventually breed.

The northern white rhino is currently benefiting from Colossal’s advanced reproductive technology. There are only two individual northern white rhinos in the world and both are female. Colossal is sequencing all available historic northern white rhino genetic material to identify lost genetic diversity and then restoring this lost diversity into future northern white rhino cell lines using gene-editing techniques. Colossal and Re:wild, working with local and international partners and governments, will then be able to restore a genetically robust population of this species.

Leveraging the company’s advanced de-extinction genetic-engineering technologies, Colossal is rebuilding the extinct dodo to reintroduce to its native ecosystem where it can fill its ecological niche. The new partnership will work with local and global partners to identify and prepare suitable reintroduction sites, build sustainable populations, and deeply engage with local communities and other stakeholders to develop shared visions and plans to return the dodo to Mauritius.

Colossal is supporting Re:wild’s Search for Lost Species. Launched in 2017, the Search for Lost Species works with partners around the world to mount expeditions to find species that have not had a documented sighting in at least a decade, but sometimes a century or more. Re:wild, in partnership with the IUCN SSC, has compiled a list of 4,300 plant, animal and fungi species that are lost to science and from that research has developed a list of the most wanted lost species. 

In addition to these species, the partnership is interested in exploring the possibility of working with local partners to leverage this technology for other priority species such as the vaquita (the world’s smallest porpoise), the saola (an antelope-like species in the Annamite mountains), and quoll species (small carnivorous marsupials).

The partnership also hopes to develop solutions to build resistance to pathogens responsible for wiping out entire groups of species, such as harlequin toads, which have been decimated by a fungal pathogen. 

Re:wild and Colossal will discuss the new partnership during an Instagram live moderated by zoologist and social media influencer Lindsay Nikole on Tuesday, March 26 at noon ET. You can follow along by visiting @rewild, @itscolossal, or @Lindsay_Nikole.

Additional quotes

Thomas Hildebrandt, head of the department of reproduction management, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
“Due to the accelerated global biodiversity crisis it is important that in addition to the classical conservation approaches such as habitat protection and captive breeding programs for reintroduction, advanced cellular technologies will be implemented into new conservation strategies especially for critically endangered species. The new partnership between the de-extinction company Colossal and the conservation NGO Re:wild presents a milestone in this direction.”

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Photo: AI-generated image of the extinct thylacine, which Colossal and Re:wild hope to help bring back and restore as a part of this new partnership. (Courtesy of Colossal Biosciences)

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Re:wild 
Re:wild protects and restores the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing crises. Founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, companies and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Learn more at rewild.org.

Colossal
Colossal was founded by emerging technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and world-renowned geneticist and serial biotech entrepreneur George Church, Ph.D., and is the first to apply CRISPR technology for the purposes of species de-extinction. Colossal creates innovative technologies for species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. Colossal is accepting humanity's duty to restore Earth to a healthier state, while also solving for the future economies and biological necessities of the human condition through cutting-edge science and technologies. To follow along, please visit: www.colossal.com

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