Peter Thiel invests in research effort to resurrect the woolly mammoth

Scientists say the long-extinct woolly mammoth could roam again, thanks to DNA advances.
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Scientists say the long-extinct woolly mammoth could roam again, thanks to DNA advances.

Like the woolly mammoth that went extinct 10,000 years ago, tech gazillionaires now bestride the Earth, with their investments reverberating as the mammoths' footfalls once did.

The mammoth of Kiwi tech bosses is freshly-minted New Zealand citizen Peter Thiel, who has added to his reputation as an eccentric with a pocket-change investment of $136,000 (US$100,000) in a research effort to resurrect the extinct pachyderm.

PayPal founder ​Thiel, who according to The Guardian believes that viewing death as inevitable is a sign of "complacency of the western world", gave the money to Harvard University genomics professor George Church, whose laboratory is attempting to revive the mammoth.

The 2015 donation has been revealed in a new book by Ben Mezrich called Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures.

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Church's plan is to take DNA extracted from frozen mammoths and using it to genetically modify elephant cells. So far, according to the book, the team has managed to get mammoth fur to grow from the side of a mouse grafted with some elephant cells. The results have yet to be published in any scientific papers.

Church confirmed the donation to MIT Technology Review, saying that Thiel told him he wanted to fund the "craziest thing" he was doing.

Thiel was granted New Zealand citizenship in June 2011 after having spent just 12 days in the country. 

Normally a permanent resident has to spend 1350 days in the country over five years before they can apply for citizenship but Thiel's citizenship was granted under exceptional circumstances.

Thiel, worth a reported $3.7 billion, rose to fame as the co-founder of PayPal. After PayPal was sold to eBay he became a successful venture capitalist, making over a billion dollars as the first outside investor in Facebook.

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Invercargill mayor, Tim Shadbolt, thinks a woolly mammoth would be a great idea for his city. 

"I have fond memories of riding Rajah the elephant at Auckland Zoo, we'd head out for the day from our orchard in Oratia." 

Shadbolt suggests a ride on a woolly mammoth would be a treasured memory for Southland children. 

He's just not so sure where they'd keep the beasts. 

 - Stuff

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