By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – Scientists in Brasília have come up with a groundbreaking way to ensure the survival of endangered species: cloning them. Scientists working on the project, which is a partnership between government agricultural research agency EMBRAPA and Brasília Zoological Garden, have already successfully cloned cows and horses.

jaguar cloning, Brazil News
Jaguars are one of species that scientists in Brasília are preparing to clone, photo by Lucy Jordan.

Now are they are turning their attention to eight at-risk species: jaguar, collared anteaters, maned wolves, bush dogs, black lion tamarin monkeys, gray brocket deer, Brazilian aardvarks (known as coatis) and bisons.

For the past two years, scientists have been collecting genetic samples from animals native to the Cerrado, the vast savannah surrounding Brasília, and storing them in a DNA bank.

Once the zoo has received the go ahead from government agencies, researchers will be trained in adapting the technique of cloning to wild animals. Researchers predict that the first successful clone will be a maned wolf, the species for which they have the most DNA samples.

The animals will supply zoos. There are no plans to release the clones into the wild, as interbreeding with clones would decrease the species’ overall genetic variation. A healthy wild population needs to have a diverse gene pool to resist disease.

However a scientist on the project noted that if a species was at imminent risk of extinction, they would consider ways to help. “If a certain species was in a state of drastic decline, at risk of total extinction, and it was possible to provide reinforcement, we will have the capacity,” Juciara Pelles, head of conservation and research at Brasília Zoo, told Tierramérica.

The first cloned animal in Brazil was a calf named Vitória, who was born in 2001 and lived until 2011. Similar research projects are under way in South Korea and the United States, according to Tierramérica.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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