The cloned Przewalski’s foal stands beside his surrogate mother, a domestic mare

In another breakthrough for genetic science and conservation, Revive & Restore, San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), and ViaGen Equine collaborated to clone an endangered Przewalski’s horse.

The cloning was done from a cell line of a genetically important stallion that had been cryopreserved since 1980. On August 7, cloned Przewalski’s horse (Equus przewalskii) ‘Kurt’ was born. He is named in honour of Dr Kurt Benirshke, a geneticist at the San Diego Zoo who in 1975 had an idea of freezing the genes. Dr Benirshke began what is now the Frozen Zoo, collecting and cryopreserving the cell lines of endangered species and safely storing away genetic diversity before it is lost.

There are 2000 Przewalski’s horses today fighting from the brink of extinction in the 1900s when only 12 were left.

“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 biobank.”

Kurt may become the most important horse in the North American captive breeding population. He may also become the first cloned animal to restore lost genetic variation to its 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 scientists hope that in five to ten years, Kurt matures into first cloned Przewalski’s stallion and he will successfully mate and thus helping save his species and to the future of conservation innovation.

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