Scientists in a zoo in the US have successfully cloned a Przewalski’s horse and sparked hope they can rescue the species.
Przewalski’s horses are native to the grasslands of Mongolia and China and are considered the last species of ‘wild horse’ left in the world. The genealogy split from domesticated horses around 500,000 years ago.
Unfortunately, the horses are critically endangered. They became extinct in the wild before an intensive breeding program in captivity provided the means to reintroduce them. Now though, they remain under threat.
However, on August 6, a successfully cloned foal was born at San Diego zoo.
The foal was born to a surrogate mother after scientists used 40-year-old cryopreserved DNA to engineer it.
‘The work to save endangered species requires collaborative and dedicated partners with aligned goals,’ said Paul A. Baribault, president/CEO of San Diego Zoo Global.
‘We share in this remarkable achievement because we applied our multidisciplinary approach, working with the best scientific minds and utilizing precious genetic material collected and stored in our wildlife DNA bio bank.’
The clone, called Kurt, will be moved into a breeding program within the zoo as he ages.
If successful, he will be able to infuse genetic diversity into the herd and, potentially, lead the way to saving the species.
‘This colt is expected to be one of the most genetically important individuals of his species,’ said Bob Wiese Ph.D., chief life sciences officer at San Diego Zoo Global.
‘We are hopeful that he will bring back genetic variation important for the future of the Przewalski’s horse population.’
The zoo explained: ‘Advanced reproductive technologies are relatively standard for domestic horses and cattle. However, there have been few attempts to work with endangered species.
‘The successful birth of this foal demonstrates how these techniques can be used for conservation efforts, today and into the future.’
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