The world’s first successfully cloned Przewalski’s horse is thriving
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is celebrating a historic birth of a critically endangered Przewalski’s horse foal named Kurt, who is the first of his species to be born at the park since 2014. This special foal is a clone created from DNA preserved for an astonishing 42 years. This amazing birth has caused quite a stir in the zoological community and offers hope to the species, which was considered extinct in the wild until 1994.
Kurt is a product of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s (SDZWA) breeding program, which aims to increase the genetic diversity of the species. The foal was born to a surrogate mother, a domestic quarter horse, and is the clone of a male Przewalski’s stallion whose DNA was frozen 42 years ago in the SDZWA Wildlife Biodiversity Bank.
Wildlife care director Kristi Burtis was overjoyed by Kurt’s arrival and said the birth was a “tremendous moment” in the history of the species. She highlighted the importance of the Przewalski’s horse, also known as the Mongolian wild horse or takhi, as an important wild horse species and expressed her commitment to conserving it for future generations. “Kurt and each individual born at our parks bolster the fragile population of Przewalski’s horses and represent our deep commitment to conserving them,” she said.
According to SDZWA, almost all surviving Przewalski’s horses are related to only 12 animals that were born in their native habitats. Several herds in China and Mongolia have been established in an effort to maintain genetic variation, but Kurt offers a glimmer of hope by bringing back lost genetic diversity to the population.
Kurt’s arrival is significant to the species, as SDZWA Chief Conservation and Wildlife Health Officer Nadine Lamberski explains, “Kurt offers hope of bringing back lost genetic diversity to the population.” The foal has been named after former zoo board member Kurt Benirschke, MD, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 94.
The birth of Kurt is a monumental achievement and marks a new chapter in the conservation efforts of the Przewalski’s horse. With the help of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and other similar organizations, there is hope that Kurt and others like him will help ensure the survival of this species for generations to come.