Appreciating our cousins’ DNA

Last night we had a Horizon programme: “Should we close our zoos?” on the BBC. t’s a sign of maturity in our appreciation of the natural world that we should now be questioning the retention of zoos for wild animals. We now now that the higher animals suffer mentally even in the best zoos. These days the accent now is on how they would normally behave if not confined behind bars — so much more interesting.

And then we are realising how close cousins we are to many species, particularly to those of the 4,000 social mammals. We are discovering how human many of them are — love, mutual care, rational thought and intuitive notions of fair transactions. In parallel we are as quite as instinctive in matters such as pecking order, fierce protection of territory and ruthless killer instincts when necessary.

It’s very much in our interests to protect as much living DNA as possible. We can never know beforehand just how vital some of their genetic secrets will be to our own future one day.

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