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Nuclear Transfer: FAQs
The world's first cloned African wildcat was born after his embryo was transferred to a domestic housecat. The clone was created from the African wildcat Jazz, who is a result of the world's first successful interspecies frozen/thawed embryo transfer. In addition, Audubon researchers have produced the world’s first caracal cat created from a frozen embryo. Together, these births represent especially important steps in using modern technology to save many different wild species.
Who performed this procedure?
Audubon Nature Institute of New Orleans, Louisiana, oversees the program at Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. Audubon senior scientist Dr. C. Earle Pope and Louisiana State University assistant research professor Dr. Martha C. Gomez (who is also staff scientist at the Audubon research center) were the lead scientists, under the direction of Dr. Betsy Dresser, who was Director of Audubon's Research Center at the time.
Where did this happen?
At Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Research Center is a facility of Audubon Nature Institute.
When was the kitten born?
The cloned African wildcat kitten, named Ditteaux, was born August 6, 2003. The frozen embryo caracal kitten was born on September 6. Additional clone births of Wildcats and Sandcats occurred in 2004, 2006 and 2007.
Why is this important?
It is the first time a wild carnivore has been cloned. The kitten is the world's only surviving wild carnivore clone. The donor material to create the clone came from an African wildcat (Jazz) that made world headlines as the first interspecies frozen/thawed embryo transfer, proving that frozen genetic material of wild species can be used to create viable embryos, and that common surrogates such as a house cat can give birth to these species. The caracal kitten is the first of its species born using the frozen zoo, expanding the list of species where these innovative technologies can be applied.
How can cloning and other assisted reproduction technologies help endangered species?
These technologies can benefit endangered species by increasing the potential for boosting their numbers, preserving and propagating species, helping to maintain genetic diversity. Cloning can introduce new genes back into the pool of species that have few remaining animals. Also, cloning can help to eliminate disease in a population by cloning only the disease-free animals.
Are there problems with cloning?
Initially, when Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be cloned, there was concern because cloning had never been done before with mammals. Since then there have been hundreds of sheep, cattle and pigs cloned and most are healthy animals to date. The technology being developed for endangered species builds on what knowledge has been gained for domestic livestock.
Wouldn't it be better to be saving habitat?
Extinction is a multi-faceted problem that requires a coordinated, strategic response. Preserving habitat is an extremely important tool in this battle, but it is not the only tool and saving habitat alone will not solve the problem. At Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, we focus on the science of reproduction, developing a safety net outside of the unstable political arena in many developing countries to help save endangered species. The money used to support the reproduction research to provide this safety net are not available for saving habitat, even in the U.S., so we are not put into the position of having to make the choice. With the funding that is available to us, we must focus our research on the laboratory science.
Isn't this a lot like playing God?
Humans have already disturbed the natural order more than any other species in the history of the world. We should utilize whatever methods we have to reverse some of the damage we have already done and give the people of the future options for working with wildlife. Humans play God all of the time when they choose to destroy the planet to make more room for their own species!
What does this have to do with human cloning?
This has nothing to do with human cloning. We are not intentionally advancing the human cloning efforts since we do not work with humans, only endangered species.