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Image: Ken Bohn, January 11, 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Rare Wild Horse Calf Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: January 30, 2023 1:40 am

San Diego Zoo Safari Park have announced the birth of a Przewalski's horse foal born to a father who was cloned adding much needed genetic diversity to the population of this species. Once listed as extinct in the wild the species has been brought back from the brink of extinction through the work of zoos and their breeding efforts.

The birth is an exciting event within the North American population as only four Przewalski's wild horse foals have been born in North America over the last year. This also marks the first time that this species has been born at the safari park in almost a decade.

“Every birth is a tremendous moment, so we are elated by this new foal,” said Kristi Burtis, wildlife care director at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We’ve had more than 157 Przewalski’s horses born at the Zoo and the Safari Park. They are an important wild horse species, and this new foal, along with each individual that was born at our parks, bolsters their fragile population—and represents our deep commitment to conserving them for future generations.”

This birth comes following a recommendation from the AZA’s Przewalski’s horse Species Survival Plan®. This program ensures that the North American population of these horses is genetically diverse. It is managed by a number of conservationists across North America.

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Nearly all of the przewalski's wild horses alive today are descended from 12 individuals which were born in their native habitat and bred in zoos. These births have provided a number of horses which have been released back to the wild in China and Mongolia returning this species to its native habitat.

With such a small population conservationists have begun to develop new tools to aid in the recovery of this species. In a collaborative effort, science teams from the nonprofit Revive & Restore, the animal cloning company ViaGen Pets & Equine, and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance were able to achieve the world’s first successfully cloned Przewalski’s horse in 2020.

Kurt's surrogate mother was a domestic quarter horse. He is a clone of a male Przewalski’s stallion whose living cell line was cryopreserved 43 years ago in the Alliance’s Frozen Zoo®, part of the Wildlife Biodiversity Bank.

''Kurt is significant to his species because he offers the hope of bringing back lost genetic diversity to the population,” said Nadine Lamberski, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ECZM (ZHM), chief conservation and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “It is imperative to do everything we can to save this genetic diversity before it disappears.”

Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can meet Kurt in the Central Asian Savanna habitat and the rest of his family next door.

Prezwalskis Horse

Learn More about the Przewalski's Wild Horse!

Unlike the domestic horse which has 64 chromosomes, the przewalskis wild horse has 66 chromosomes. What else makes the last wild horse unique, find out our in fact file.

Our Favourite Przewalski's Horse Fact!

As their name suggests the Przewalski's wild horse is the world's last true wild horse. Despite numerous attempts the species has never been tamed and can not be ridden or used for any other purpose.

Image: Ken Bohn, January 11, 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

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