First Clone Of Endangered Horse Born In Effort To Save Species
The world’s first successfully cloned Przewalski’s horse has been born to a surrogate mother at a veterinary facility in Texas.
The colt was cloned from a stallion Przewalski’s horse whose DNA was cryopreserved 40 years ago at the San Diego Global Frozen Zoo.
He was born ‘fully healthy and reproductively normal’ on August 6, and will soon be moved into the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where he will be integrated into a breeding pack once he is old enough.
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Przewalski’s horses are native to Mongolia, however they are now listed as ‘critically endangered’ species and are considered to be the last of the ‘truly wild horses’.
The horses did, at one stage, become extinct in the wild, and for many years the species survived almost entirely in various zoos around the world. However, intensive breeding programmes did eventually allow for them to be reintroduced back into the grasslands of China and Mongolia, and all existing Przewalski’s can now be traced back to 12 horses born in the wild.
Paul A. Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global, said in a statement:
The work to save endangered species requires collaborative and dedicated partners with aligned goals.
We share in this remarkable achievement because we applied our multidisciplinary approach, working with the best scientific minds and utilising precious genetic material collected and stored in our wildlife DNA bio bank.
The foal has been affectionately named Kurt after Dr Kurt Benirschke, who created the San Diego Zoo Global Frozen Zoo, which has preserved the genetic material of endangered animals for 45 years.
Oliver Ryder PhD, director of genetics at San Diego Zoo Global, explained:
A central tenet of the Frozen Zoo, when it was established by Dr Benirschke, was that it would be used for purposes not possible at the time. Now, the living cells in the Frozen Zoo are contributing to reversing losses of genetic diversity and contributing to population sustainability. The cells of hundreds of Przewalski’s horses reside in the Frozen Zoo, and form the basis for new opportunities in applying scientific research to preserve species into the future.
‘This birth expands the opportunity for genetic rescue of endangered wild species,’ Ryan Phelan, executive director of Revive & Restore, added.
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‘Advanced reproductive technologies, including cloning, can save species by allowing us to restore genetic diversity that would have otherwise been lost to time.’
Bob Wiese PhD, who is head of life sciences at the zoo, says the birth of Kurt gives hope that they will now be able to bring back the genetic variation required to sustain the future of the Przewalski’s horse population.
Not only is Revive & Restore trying to revive Przewalski’s horses using biotechnology, but it is also attempting to revive another six different endangered species, including the Wooly Mammoth, which became exctinct around 4,000 years ago.
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