First Clone Of Critically Endangered Przewalski’s Horse Born
Przewalski’s horses are a critically endangered breed of horse that is experiencing rapidly dwindling numbers.
However, there is a glimmer of hope for the species as the first successful clone was born on 6th August in a veterinary facility in Texas. The horse was cloned from DNA of a male Przewalski’s horse which had been cryopreserved by the San Diego zoo back in 1980. This proves that cloning rare species is possible in the correct environment which could potentially prevent mass extinctions.
This beautiful species of horse are labelled as critically endangered. Native to Mongolia, they are often regarded as the last species of “truly wild horses” and are distantly related to modern day domestic horses, having likely split from a common ancestor around 500,000 years ago. Once extinct in the wild, Przewalski’s horses were saved by intensive breeding programs which eventually reintroduced them into the grasslands of China and Mongolia.
The successful cloning of DNA collected 40 years is meant to introduce key generic diversity into the species that could benefit its survival. The zoo said the cloned Przewalski’s horse will eventually be transferred to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and integrated into a herd of other Przewalski’s horses for breeding efforts. The cloned horse is the combined effort of several disciplines all over the country.
Dr. Kurt Benirschk is the creator of the San Diego Zoo Global Frozen Zoo, which has been collecting and preserving generic material of endangered animals since 1975. It is from this biological bank of generic material that the horse cloned and so with that in mind, the cloned Przewalski’s horse was named ‘Kurt’ in honour of Dr. Benirschk. This wasn't just a one-man effort though, as previously mentioned. Several organisations were involved, all with an equally important role.
First of all, San Diego Zoo Global partnered up with Revive & Restore, which is a wildlife conservation group that aims to incorporate biotechnology into conservation efforts. In addition to this, they had assistance from ViaGen Equine - a company that clones horses and pets. Together, they were able to successfully clone the horse. It opens up a whole new gateway to cloning and genetic restoration for endangered species or perhaps ones that have already become extinct.
For example, Przewalski’s horses are not the only species Revive & Restore is trying to clone via biotechnology. The group is also attempting to revive at least six endangered or extinct species. One of the most famous being the Woolly Mammoth which went extinct around 4,000 years ago. There are other organisations attempting to bring back extinct species as well, such as the Sumatran Rhinoceros, which only recently became an extinct species.
There have been many attempts at cloning endangered animals but none that have been as successful as this one. It proves that not all endangered species’ are doomed, even extinct ones might have a fighting chance now. With properly preserved genetic material, anything is possible. Perhaps we’ll be surrounded by woolly mammoths and dodos in a few years!