Complex Made Simple

Scientists, businesses, and people are cloning wild animals, cattle, and pets. Has this gone too far?

Extinct animals are being cloned, but also cattle like cows and bulls, farm animals like sheep and chickens and pets like dogs and cats are being cloned every day now

A ferret was brought to life using the frozen cells of Willa, another black-footed ferret that died over 30 years ago The dinosaur DNA you need to clone would have had to survive around 65 million years In China, where demand for prime-quality beef is rocketing, a cloning company thinks its customers will eat clones

Extinct animals are being cloned, but also cattle like cows and bulls, farm animals like sheep and chickens and pets like dogs and cats are being cloned every day now.

In case you’re wondering, dinosaurs are impossible to clone, and they’re out.  

Humans, technically speaking, are possible but too many ethical issues are at stake.

However, is the practice of bringing the dead back to life getting everyone’s approval?

An almost extinct North American ferret is brought to life via cloning 

Scientists have cloned a native endangered North American species for the very first time, a black-footed ferret of which there are around 350 individuals left in the wild.

Named Elizabeth Ann, the ferret was brought to life using the frozen cells of Willa, another black-footed ferret that died over 30 years ago.

This marks a major scientific and conservation success, as genetic cloning could pave the way to bring back extinct species that are valuable to our habitat. 

It still remains to be seen if Elizabeth Ann can reproduce, but scientists are pleased with the outcome so far, given it took 7 years of research and work to reach this point. 

Read: Is DNA the Next Generation of Data Backup?

Read: Cloning pets and animals now common practice. Is cloning humans next?

No Dino in our future

To replicate a dinosaur genome, you would need billions of DNA’s building blocks, base pairs. But none of the ancient DNA scientists ever harvested had more than 250 and the oldest DNA ever found is about a million years old

The dinosaur DNA you need to clone would have had to survive around 65 million years.

Scientists recently said they had sequenced DNA from mammoths believed to be more than a million years old. 

All the other animals cloned, some of which you may eat! 
 Animals from pets and livestock to working dogs and extinct species are being cloned for a variety of purposes

Almost 25 years ago ,the most famous clone on Earth, Dolly the sheep, was born. 

The history of cloning is rich and varied.  

In August 2020, a healthy clone of the endangered Przewalski’s horse was born in Texas. 

Around 2,000 of such horses remain, but they lack essential genetic diversity because they’re all descended from just 12 wild-caught individuals.

The little foal, called Kurt, was cloned using 40-year-old frozen cells from a stallion whose genes aren’t well represented in today’s population and could restore this lost genetic diversity via his descendants.

Other wild species have also been successfully cloned, including the coyote, the African wildcat, and a rare Southeast Asian cow called the banteng. 

But many conservationists oppose cloning because they see it as an unproven, expensive distraction from tried and tested conservation methods, such as protected areas and anti-poaching initiatives.

At least three pet-cloning companies now exist and for upwards of $40,000 they’ll create a genetic replica of your beloved pet dog or cat. Singer Barbra Streisand and fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg have both bought clones of their pet dogs, for example.

Cloning is a notoriously inefficient process, whatever the species. It takes multiple dog surrogates to achieve a single, successful pregnancy and dozens of cloned embryos to achieve a single, healthy puppy.  

Some wonder “Why go down this route when there are millions of deserving dogs in shelters?”

Some of the companies that clone pet dogs also clone working animals, such as drug-detection dogs. 

“That’s the number one thing we’re doing with dog cloning,” says cell biologist Dr. P Olof Olsson, at the Abu Dhabi Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea.

Also known as Sooam Biotech, the company has produced hundreds of canine clones and many are now in active service. If you’ve ever collected a suitcase from the carousel at Seoul’s Incheon Airport, chances are it was checked by a cloned sniffer.

The idea is to produce animals that are genetically predisposed to learn well. It takes time and money to train a sniffer dog, but even with the best training and the brightest animals, only around half of the conventionally-bred dogs manage to qualify. Cloned dogs do much better.

“80 to 90% end up going into service,” says Olsson, “and we’ve been told multiple times that our clones respond better to training.”  

But would you want to eat a clone? In China, where demand for prime-quality beef is rocketing, another cloning company thinks its customers will.

Boyalife Genomics, which also works with the Abu Dhabi Biotech Research Foundation, is building a $30 million cloning facility there. 

The goal, according to the company’s chief executive Xu Xiaochun, is to start by producing 100,000 cloned cattle embryos annually, then increase that to a million. Eventually, the firm hopes to be responsible for 5% of China’s premium slaughtered cattle.

In agriculture, clones of high-value breeding animals are being produced for breeding purposes. 

For example, Final Answer was a naturally conceived bull so buff he became one of the most prolific sires of the Angus cattle breed. During his life, he produced more than 500,000 units of semen, which were used to father hundreds of thousands of offspring via artificial insemination.