Preventing extinction is the central driver of almost all conservation action. Conservation biologists are sensitive about extinction because it is final and irreversible. The concept of de-extinction however threatens the finality of extinction to offer the option to reverse some of the iconic extinction events. Here we explore the place that extinction plays in conservation and argue that; (1) deliberate extinction by humans is surprisingly rare and extinction is a cultural taboo, (2) Australia has an acute sense of extinction guilt linked to our world renowned extinctions of iconic mammals and; (3) extinction, like death, is irreversible, meaning that extinct species hold a special martyr-like status as iconic consequences of the excesses of humans. We argue that de-extinction is a dangerous idea for conservation because it will undermine the value provided by extinct species as martyrs for the conservation cause.

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