San Diego, CA

New Foal at SD Zoo: Ollie the Clone

Tracy Carbone

Author’s note: This article is summarized from various sources and attributions are linked within.
Ollie the newest closed Przewalski's horsePhoto by@sandiegozoo via X, or Twitter

Per MSN There’s a brand-new foal in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Maybe that in and of itself isn’t big news, but this horse is a clone of a species, the Przewalski's horse, thought to be extinct until 1996. Ollie, who got his name from Dr. Oliver Ryder, director of Conservation Genetics at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Little Ollie has had quite a journey. He was born February 17, 2023 at the ViaGen Pets & Equine cloning facility in Texas from a cell line “cryopreserved more than 40 years ago in the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Biodiversity Bank's Frozen Zoo.” He was moved, along with his surrogate mother who is a domestic quarter horse, to San Diego to “learn the language of being a wild horse from his own species.”

Ryder has worked at the zoo since 1975, “under the guidance of Dr. Kurt Benirschke, who was instrumental in founding the conservation research program at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.”

Ryder stated, “"It is an honor to have studied and worked with so many others on the conservation of this special animal and to see come alive the possibility of using advanced genetic and reproductive technologies to sustain resilient populations in human care and in their native habitat."

Hopeful the cloning and protection of these animals will help rebuild the species, horses have been reintroduced to “native grasslands in China and Mongolia, but scientists say there is more work to be done to ensure genetic variation and thus the species' survival.” Though they were formerly extinct in the wild, they’ve been able to maintain the species “for the past 40 years almost entirely in zoos, and nearly all of the surviving horses are related to just 12 Przewalski's horses born in native habitats.”

Przewalski's horses live in groups in the wild and the young horses will “normally secures their place in the herd from their mother.” Since Ollie was born from a surrogate, a domestic horse, he’s not yet had the experience of mingling with his own kind.

Though Ollie and his mother will be temporarily secluded in a private habitat, without guest viewing, he will eventually meet other horses from his species. “San Diego Zoo Safari Park wildlife care experts will work to ensure he gains the unique behavioral language he will need to interact and thrive among the larger herd of Przewalski's horses at the Safari Park.”

One horse he will relate to is Kurt, who was the world’s first cloned Przewalski's horse. Kurt was born in August 2020 and is already learning the ropes of being a Przewalski's horse from his companion Holly. Kurt and Holly also live in the San Diego zoo. Kurt, a genetic twin to Ollie, is “currently learning the language of being a wild.” The plan is for “Kurt and Ollie to become breeding stallions when they reach maturity at about 4 years of age."

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I'm a California based writer, blogger, and painter who strives to post local and national articles to inspire and engage my readers.

Simi Valley, CA

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