An endangered type of horse has successfully been cloned by scientists.
Kurt is a newborn Przewalski’s horse, a rare and endangered horse native.
He was born this year on August 6 after experts used genetic material that had been cryopreserved for 40 years.
Kurt’s birth is exciting not only because he’s very cute but because his genetic diversity could help to save the species.
Zoologist Bob Wiese, chief life sciences officer at San Diego Zoo Global, said: “This colt is expected to be one of the most genetically important individuals of his species.
“We are hopeful that he will bring back genetic variation important for the future of the Przewalski’s horse population.”
The number of native Przewalski’s horses started to dwindle after World War II.
Several factors play into their decline including overhunting and lack of territory to roam.
The last confirmed sighting of one in the wild was in 1969.
Przewalski’s horses are native to central Asia.
Kurt was born in Texas at the veterinary facility of a ViaGen Equine collaborator, Timber Creek Veterinary.
He’s a clone of a male Przewalski’s horse whose DNA was kept frozen at the San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) Frozen Zoo.
This is actually the first time the species has been cloned.
The frozen genetic material was inserted into a surrogate female horse.
Thanks to a breeding program, there are around 2,000 Przewalski’s horses alive today.
However, the problem is those horses all derive from the same 12 ancestors that were captured from the wild between 1899 and 1902.
If the horse breed is to survive without genetic issues it needs more diversity.
The horse Kurt was cloned from lived between 1975 to 1998.
He was called Kuporovic and was found to have good genes so a genetic sample was taken from him in 1980.
San Diego Zoo collaborated with wildlife conservation group Revive & Restore and cloning company ViaGen Equine to create a copy of Kuporovic.
Researchers worked together to create a horse embryo that could be inserted into a surrogates womb.
The pregnancy was said to be normal and healthy.
Chief science officer at ViaGen Equine, Shawn Walker said: “This new Przewalski’s colt was born fully healthy and reproductively normal.
“He is head butting and kicking, when his space is challenged, and he is demanding milk supply from his surrogate mother.”
The plan is for Kurt to be weaned from his surrogate mother and then live at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with others from his species.
In five to ten years when he is a stallion, he will hopefully reproduce and carry on the work of the conservation program.
Kurt is named after Frozen Zoo founder Kurt Benirschke.
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