Two months ago, a baby horse named Kurt was born. He looks and plays just like a regular foal, but Kurt is special: He’s a clone. And he’s the first-ever clone of his species, the critically endangered Przewalski’s horse, and a shining hope for conservationists, reports the Associated Press.
Przewalski’s horses are the last living truly “wild” horses. (The stallions and mares that roam the American West descended from domesticated horses, so techincally they are feral, not wild.) These stocky, scruffy creatures once existed throughout Europe and Asia. Extreme weather, encroaching human settlements, and livestock infringing on their habitat pushed the horses as far east as the steppes of the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia. By the 1960s, they had nearly disappeared. Conservationists report that the species is extinct in the wild, and only an estimated 2,000 individuals remain in zoos and reserves, including the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.