No longer science fiction, cloning could be the key to saving some of the world’s most endangered animals. Scientists are hoping that the recent birth of a cloned Przewalski’s horse will add genetic diversity to the breed’s struggling population. The adorable foal named Kurt will help his breed battle complete extinction, and his successful birth shows how technology could play a major role in the future of conservation. The currently one-month-old Przewalkski’s horse is one of only 2,000 of his kind alive today, and his health is hope for the future.
Animal conservationists and cloning company ViaGen Equine celebrated the cloned horse’s birth on August 6. Born to a domestic surrogate mother, Kurt is a clone of a Przewalski’s horse stallion named Kuporovic. Kuporovic was born in 1975 and lived until 1998. His DNA was frozen and preserved at the San Diego Zoo Global Frozen Zoo before he died in hopes that when technology caught up, he could continue to contribute to his breed’s survival.
With cloning becoming more commonplace in the 21st century, conservationists were thrilled to use his 40-year-old DNA to create new life.
Kuporovic was specifically chosen for cloning due to his specific genetics. An analysis showed that compared to the available captive horses, his genome offered valuable variation. When Kurt is old enough, he will hopefully pass on his important genetics to yet another generation that will further stabilize the future of the Przewalski’s horse.
For now, Kurt is learning and growing just like any other foal. He likes to run and play, and he’s never too far from his surrogate mom. When he matures, Kurt will move to San Diego Zoo Safari Park to live with their breeding herd of Przewalski’s horses.
As the only truly wild breed of horse in the world, protecting and conserving the Przewalkski’s horse is paramount. The dun-colored horses are cousins to the zebra and used to live freely throughout Europe and Asia. As their natural habitat shrunk, so did their population. They were once thought to be extinct in the wild, but important efforts by conservationists have reintroduced small groups to their native Mongolian habitat.
With only around 2,000 Przewalski’s horses alive today, and most of those in captivity, every birth is important. Kurt is a representation of how technology can help save animals from extinction and keep the Earth a wild, beautiful place.