San Diego Zoo successfully clones an endangered Przewalskis horse

Kurt, a baby Przewalski’s horse, looks and plays like any
other baby horse. But the now two-month-old colt is unique in that
he is a clone. The endangered
Przewalski’s horse colt was created from stallion cells that had
been frozen at the San Diego Zoo in 1980. The frozen cells were
recently collected and fused with an egg from a domestic horse to
create the world’s first cloned Przewalski’s horse.

The process of cloning started several decades ago. In 1980,
cells from a 5-year-old stallion were collected and stored at the
San Diego Frozen Zoo facility. According to officials at the San
Diego Zoo, the cells were merged with an egg after removing the
nucleus. The egg was then implanted in a mare, who became the
mother to Kurt two months ago.

Related: Scientists in China have successfully cloned

The San Diego Zoo now sees the birth of the cloned horse as a
huge step forward in the efforts to restore the population of
Przewalski’s horses. Also known as the Asiatic Wild Horse or
Mongolian Wild Horse, this species was formerly
extinct in the wild
and only about 2,000 are left, mostly residing in zoos. Intensive
breeding programs have aided in conservation efforts but have also
limited the gene pool. Zoo officials say that it is necessary to
take measures that will help repopulate the endangered species.
Cloning, depending on cells available in the Frozen Zoo, can help
prevent genetic diversity losses.

Przewalski’s horse colt

“This colt is expected to be one of the most genetically
important individuals of his species,” Bob Wiese, chief life
sciences officer at San Diego Zoo Global, said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that he will bring back genetic variation
important for the future of the Przewalski’s horse

The baby horse has been named after Kurt Benirschke, who was
instrumental in founding the Frozen Zoo facility.

“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,” said Oliver Ryder of San Diego Zoo Global.

frozen cells for cloning

The cloning was made possible through a partnership among the
San Diego Zoo, conservation
organization Revive & Restore and genetic preservation company
ViaGen Equine.

Przewalski’s horses are said to be the only truly wild horses
in the world today. Although there are some horses in the wild in
the U.S. and Australia, most are actually the ancestors of escaped
domesticated horses. This species is named for Nikolai Przewalski,
a Russian geographer who came across a horse skull and hide, then
donated his findings to a museum.

+ San Diego Zoo

Huffington Post

Photography by Scott Stine via San Diego Zoo

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
San Diego Zoo successfully clones an endangered Przewalskis