Przewalski’s horses were almost extinct in the past century, but scientists at the San Diego Zoo in the U.S. are fighting to preserve the species.
Przewalski’s horses are a subspecies of wild horses from Asia. Like many other animals, they are endangered – in fact, they became extinct in the wild in the early 20th century.
Today there are 2,000 live specimens, descendants of only 12 individuals saved from extinction more than 100 years ago.
Fortunately, in 1980, scientists collected genetic material from Przewalski’s horses and kept them cryopreserved at the San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) Frozen Zoo.
This material can provide the genetic diversity lost in the last generations that is required to save the species.
Using this genetic material, SDZG scientists were able to clone a horse born in 1975 in the United Kingdom, moved to the USA in 1978 and that lived until 1998. He was called Kuporovic by his caretakers.
On August 6, 2020, Kurt was born, the Kuporovic clone and the first of his kind. The name is a tribute to Kurt Benirschke, who founded the Frozen Zoo.
“This birth expands the opportunity for genetic rescue of endangered wild species,” said Ryan Phelan, executive director of Revive & Restore.
According to Shawn Walker, chief science officer at ViaGen Equine, a company that studies horse breeding, Kurt is healthy and fertile. “He is head butting and kicking, when his space is challenged, and he is demanding milk supply from his surrogate mother.”
When Kurt grows up, he will be taken to the zoo’s Safari Park to live with other animals of his species and, who knows, produce offspring.
Check out this video of Kurt playing, last August 31st: