Scientists Bring Quagga Back From Extinction (Sort Of)

This was reportedly the last living quagga. Photo via The Quagga Project SA/Facebook

The quagga used to roam the South African plains. A relative of the zebra, it very closely resembled that animal, but without as many stripes. European hunters who settled in the area apparently found the quagga to be quite desirable – perhaps for its uniqueness – and hunted the equine to extinction in the late 1800s. The Daily Mail reports that the last known quagga was shot and killed in 1883. Now, scientists are aiming to bring it back… well, sort of.

The Cape Town University scientists are running a breeding program specifically for the purpose of bringing the quagga back. According to Daily Mail, “using selective breeding, scientists have bred animals that are almost genetically identical to the extinct species and are attempting to reintroduce them to its once natural habitat.” The breeding program, led by Cape Town University professor Eric Harley, began with testing quagga skins that still remain in existence. It was discovered that he quagga was a subspecies of the zebra. That information led Harley to hypothesize that “the genes which characterized the quagga would still be present in the zebra,” CNN reports.

“The progress of the project has in fact followed that prediction. And in fact we have over the course of 4, 5 generations seen a progressive reduction in striping, and lately an increase in the brown background color showing that our original idea was in fact correct,” Harley told CNN.

This is the project’s first 5th generation foal, born in 2013. Photo via The Quagga Project SA/Facebook

There are currently 100 animals on the reserve as part of the project. However, only six are classified as Rau Quaggas, meaning these are the ones that are closest to the original quagga. They were named after Reinhold Rau, an originator of the project. CNN reports that once that number reaches 50, the herd will live together on one reserve.

What do you think about scientists attempting to revive the quagga?




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