Jurassic Bark: Chinese researchers clone Arctic wolf in “landmark” project

Researchers in China have cloned a wild arctic wolf and hope the controversial genetic engineering can now help save other endangered species as the world heads towards an extinction crisis.

On Monday, Beijing-based Sinogene Biotechnology unveiled the female wolf clone, dubbed Maya by scientists, who has lived 100 days since her birth on March 10.

Maya, a tan puppy with a bushy tail, is in healthy condition, the company said. During a press conference, videos were shown of Maya playing and resting.

“After two years of painstaking efforts, the arctic wolf has been successfully cloned. It is the first case of its kind in the world,” Mi Jidong, general manager of the company, said at the press conference, Chinese state media reported.

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Also known as the white wolf or arctic wolf, the arctic wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf native to the high arctic tundra in Canada’s northern arctic archipelago. Its conservation status — the metric used to determine how close a species is to extinction — is considered low-risk because its arctic habitat is remote enough to avoid hunters, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But climate change is increasingly threatening its food supply, while human developments like roads and pipelines are encroaching on its territory.

Sinogene launched its arctic wolf cloning project in 2020 in collaboration with polar theme park Harbin Polarland, it reported in a statement on Twitter-like platform Weibo.

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In developing Maya, the company used a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, the same technique that was used to create the very first mammalian clone, Dolly the sheep, in 1996. The company said in its Weibo post that a second cloned arctic wolf is expected to be born soon.

“Cloning technology provides a good entry point for protecting endangered wild animals, which is a great contribution to protecting biodiversity,” said He Zhenming, director of the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources of China’s National Institute of Food and Drug Control. He added that the successful cloning of Maya is a “landmark event for wildlife conservation and the recovery of endangered species.”

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Sinogene said it will also work with Beijing Wildlife Park to explore more cloning technology and applications, and conduct research on conservation and breeding of rare and endangered animals in China.

The original Maya died of old age in 2021, according to the Global Times. The cloned Maya now lives with her surrogate beagle mother and is later housed in Harbin Polarland, which is open to the public.


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