Why a cloned foal born in an American zoo is the key to the survival of his endangered breed


A Przewalski clone is believed to be the key to the survival of its species after it was born in a US zoo last August.

Kurt was born 10 months ago. Photo credit: Scott Stine

The Przewalski breed is considered to be the last truly wild horse species. The foal, named Kurt, is now 10 months old and is a clone of a British stallion born in 1975.

The stallion was transferred to America in 1978, where a sample of his DNA was taken and stored in the San Diego Global Frozen Zoo two years later.

Kurt was born at Timber Creek Veterinary Hospital in Texas. A statement said they hoped the clone would help restore genetic diversity to the breed’s population, which would otherwise be lost.

Kurt is the first clone of his breed and will be integrated into the breeding herd at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Its cloning is the result of a collaboration between the San Diego Global Zoo, ViaGen Equine, industry leaders in cloning and genetic preservation for animal owners and breeders, and the Timber Creek Veterinary Hospital, as well. as Revive & Restore, a wildlife conservation organization that promotes the use of biotechnologies such as cloning to aid in species conservation.

Collect a species

Przewalski’s horse was once considered an ancestor of the domestic horse, but is in fact a distant cousin. They lived in the Mongolian steppe, where they roamed freely for 160,000 years, either in herds of bachelors or in a harem of mares with a single stallion.

The Frozen San Diego Zoo. Photo credit: Scott Stine

They are small, between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., with a brown coat, white muzzle and dark mane.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified the species as extinct in the wild in 1969 after their numbers fell due to hunting, habitat loss and breeding with other wild horses.

The breed’s survival was ensured by 12 individuals who began to breed them in captivity after capturing them before the start of World War II. This small breeding ground limited genetic diversity, and programs were put in place to increase the exchange of individuals between zoos in order to reduce inbreeding.

Intensive breeding programs made it possible to recover nearly 1,500 captive individuals in the 1990s.

The future of Przewalski

Samples from the frozen San Diego Zoo. Photo credit: Scott Stine

The Przewalski reside in zoos around the world, as well as in closed reserves in England, France, the Netherlands, Hungary, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Reintroduction into Mongolia began in the 1990s with herds released at two different sites. A third site was used in 2005.

It was considered a success because the population grew without human interference. Despite this, establishing genetic variation is important for securing the future of the species.

As a result of these conservation efforts, Przewalski’s horse was reclassified as Critically Endangered in 2008, and then Endangered in 2011, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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