The world’s first cloned wild arctic wolf — Maya — lies next to a lawn, as shown in a video released Monday by Beijing-based Sinogene Biotechnology Co, marking the wolf’s debut 100 days after its birth at a Beijing lab . Photo: Courtesy of Sinogene Biotechnology Co
A Beijing-based gene company on Monday announced the debut of the world’s first cloned wild arctic wolf via video, 100 days after it was born in a Beijing laboratory. Experts say his birth pioneered the breeding of rare and endangered animals through cloning technology.
“To save the endangered animal, we started research cooperation with Harbin Polarland on arctic wolf cloning in 2020. After two years of painstaking efforts, the arctic wolf was successfully cloned. It is the first case of its kind in the world,” said Mi Jidong, general manager of Beijing-based Sinogene Biotechnology Co., at a press conference in Beijing.
The birth of the world’s first cloned wild arctic wolf marks a milestone in the application of cloning technology, which experts say is of great importance for the conservation of rare and endangered animals and biodiversity.
The wolf named Maya, who was born on June 10, is in excellent health, as the video showed. His donor cell came from a skin sample taken from a wild arctic wolf that had been introduced to Harbin Polarland from Canada. His egg came from a female dog and his surrogate mother was a beagle, according to Zhao Jianping, deputy general manager of the company.
Arctic wolf cloning was accomplished through the construction of 137 new embryos from enucleated ova and somatic cells, followed by the transfer of 85 embryos into the uterus of seven beagles, one of which was born a healthy wolf — Maya, Zhao noted.
The selection of a dog as Maya’s replacement was made because dogs share genetic ancestry with ancient wolves and are more likely to be successful through cloning technology, experts said.
He Zhengming, head of the China Research Institute of Experimental Animal Resources for Food and Drug Control, told the Global Times on Monday that the cloned animals still have the ability to reproduce if they have intact fertilized eggs. Cloning technology can copy all genetic information for selective breeding, thereby diversifying the population of endangered animals.
Since the world’s first mammalian clone “Dolly”, cloning technology has created the opportunity to diversify the populations of some species such as cattle, pigs and horses. If endangered species are identified in some locations, cloning cells preserved by freezing technologies could also generate new life, experts said.
As part of a more concrete move to promote breeding of rare and endangered animals through cloning technology , Sinogene Biotechnology Co and Beijing Wildlife Park on Monday announced plans to establish a partnership on applications of cloning technology to conserve gene seeds in rare and endangered wildlife .
Gao Wei, deputy manager of Beijing Wildlife Park, told the Global Times that the partnership with the gene company gives Beijing Wildlife Park another way to conserve rare and endangered species when artificial reproduction is not possible. No concrete projects are currently being launched between the two.
According to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, increased efforts to protect endangered wildlife species and their habitats are part of the goals of the country’s national development plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).
The world’s first cloned wild arctic wolf Maya. Photo: Courtesy of Sinogene Biotechnology Co
However, some sparked controversy regarding the cloned arctic wolf. Sun Quanhui, a scientist with the World Animal Protection Organization, told the Global Times that cloning technology has made great strides since its birth, but it is still being perfected and is at the exploratory stage of research, and there are many technical and ethical issues are to be handled and handled with care.
Sun suggested several questions: Are there any health risks associated with cloned animals? Under what circumstances is it legal to clone animals? How much does cloning affect biodiversity? He believed that cloning should only be considered for endangered wild animals whose species are extinct or whose wild populations are extinct and whose captive populations are very limited.
The cloned wolf now lives with her surrogate beagle at a Sinogene laboratory in Xuzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, and will later be taken to the Harbin Polarland in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province for public display.
Dai Rui, the general manager of Harbin Polarland, said that the cloned wolf would live alone in the park in the initial stages because it might not be able to adapt to the original arctic wolf groups. The birth of Maya continues the life of the wild arctic wolf who was imported from Canada in 2006 and died of old age in 2021, also named Maya.
The Global Times learned from Zhao that another male cloned arctic wolf is expected on Thursday.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists arctic wolves as vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species. In China, arctic wolves are imported from overseas and bred in zoos.