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Quagga, Zebra cousin, recreated 100 years after extinction

Quaggas, which resembled zebras in the front and horses in the back, once roamed South Africa in large herds, specifically in the Karoo and southern Free State. European settlers did not want quaggas sharing grass with their livestock and the animals were ruthlessly hunted. When the last quagga in Amsterdam Zoo died on 12 August 1883, it was not immediately realized that the species had gone extinct. South Africa’s government even passed a legislation to protect the animal in 1886 not knowing that the last quagga in the world died nearly three years before.

A team of scientists based at the University of Cape Town led by Professor Eric Harley have recreated an animal that is genetically similar to quagga with the help of DNA and selective breeding. The scientists have so far bred six Rau quaggas — animals with attributes of the original quagga. They are named ” Rau quaggas” after Reinhold Rau, one of the project’s founders 30 years ago.

The Quagga Project website says:

By bringing selected individuals together, and so concentrating the Quagga genes, a population should emerge that will be closer to the original Quagga population than any other extant Plains Zebra. For re-introduction into areas formerly inhabited by Quaggas, such animals would undoubtedly be more desirable than any others.

However, there are many critics of the Quagga project, with some saying the project is a stunt and all the researchers have done is to create a different species of zebra with zero regard for the behavioral and ecological adaptations of the original quagga, which, as of now, are mostly unknown.

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