Animal cloning: San Diego Zoo clones endangered horse

The San Diego Zoo, in the United States, successfully experimented with animal cloning. They cloned a species of horses in danger of extinction.

Despite he looks like any other colt while playing in his stable Kurt, is a rare Przewalski horse is a two months old clone. 

However, the colt is no different from others. He is not afraid to kick or head an intruder who gets in his way. Like others, when he is hungry, he runs to his mother for milk.

Process of this animal cloning

They created this rare Przewalski horse, from cells taken from a stallion that had been frozen at the San Diego Zoo for 40 years. Researchers fused them with an egg from a domestic horse.

They removed the nucleus of the ovum and implanted the cells into the mare who would become his mother on August 6.

According to the zoo officials, this is the world’s first cloned Przewalski horse.

This birth is a milestone in attempts to restore the population of this horse, also called the Asian wild horse or Mongolian wild horse. 

As a reminder, the Przewalski horses are small and robust animals between 1.2 and 1.5 meters tall. They can reach around 4 to 5 feet up to the withers.

These horses are extinct in the wild.  Only about 2,000 are present in zoos and controlled habitats. Moreover, their limited set of genes puts them at a reproductive disadvantage.

“This foal is anticipated to be one of the most genetically important individuals of its species”. Bob Wiese, chief biological science officer at San Diego Zoo Global, which operates the zoo, said in a statement. 

“We are hopeful that it will bring with its significant genetic variation for the future of the Przewalski horse population.”

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San Diego Frozen Zoo

Kurt’s father, thanks to which animal cloning was possible died in 1998. As for his cells, they were kept frozen at the so-called San Diego Frozen Zoo.

The horse got his name in honor of Kurt Benirschke.  Benirschke had contributed in the creation of the Frozen Zoo with his extensive research and cell culture program.

“A central tenet of the Frozen Zoo, when established by Dr. Benirschke, was that it would be used for purposes that were not possible at the time,” said Oliver Ryder, director of genetics at San Diego Zoo Global.

This animal cloning was possible thanks to the collaboration of the zoo along with the California conservation group Revive & Restore and the ViaGen Equine Company.

Kurt was born in a veterinary facility in Texas. According to officials, it will continue to live with his mother for probably another year.

Later on, he will be integrated into the zoo’s Przewalski horse population hoping he will increase it one day.


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