A cloned Przewalski horse named Kurt is a new attraction at the Safari Park in San Pasqual Valley.
The colt has a one of a kind story.
It’s the world’s initial effectively cloned Przewalski horse, a breed native to Mongolia that grew to become extinct in the wild but now has been reintroduced into its previous habitat.
It’s also a residing legacy to Kurt Benirschke, the visionary founder of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s endangered species replica heart, referred to nowadays as reproductive sciences.
Benirschke experienced the foresight, 42 a long time in the past, to save genetic product from this ancient horse species in his Frozen Zoo. His team’s study found that the Przewalski horse has 66 chromosomes, two extra than the domestic horse, confirming it as a separate species.
Regrettably, Benirschke died in 2018, at age 94, prior to staying able to witness this cloning miracle and a lot of other individuals on the horizon with scientific improvements in reproduction technology.
His trail-blazing lifetime was a combination of Indiana Jones — venturing into remote, inhospitable jungles — and Jurassic Park scientist — bringing to everyday living exotic species, some presently believed extinct in the wild.
His son, Rolf Benirschke, previous area kicker for the San Diego Chargers, has brought to gentle and to existence some of his father’s adventures in a e book: “Saving Wildlife: The Extraordinary Daily life and Legacy of Dr. Kurt Beirschke.”
The medical doctor moved to San Diego in 1970 to join UC San Diego’s fledgling medical college in which he headed the pathology section.
He also joined a S.D. Zoo investigation committee and sooner or later was invited to type a copy analysis heart for endangered animals in 1974. He and his zoo colleagues given that have performed critical roles in the conservation of California condors, big pandas, black-footed ferrets, the southern white rhino and a lot of additional endangered and threatened species.
In 2004, their Frozen Zoo preserved cells of the world’s last residing po’ouli, a chicken indigenous to Hawaii, soon after it died of aged age in a conservancy heart in Maui.
Benirschke pretty much one-handedly saved the big peccary. The furry pig-like South American mammal was considered to be extinct. But when found to however exist, Benirschke visited a remote Paraguayan village in a jungle bearing the challenging nickname of the “green hell.”
Inhabitants caught one of the exceptional animals for their American explorer. Benirschke straight away established up a remote zoo outpost under supervision of a villager to breed the animals.
The very last male northern white rhino died in 2018, leaving only two females in a Kenyan conservancy. Hope for the species’ survival resides in tissue cultures Benirschke’s Frozen Zoo banked yrs back from 12 northern white rhinos.
Some of the pores and skin cells will be reworked someday into pluripotent cells that can be turned into egg or sperm cells to produce embryos that can be implanted in surrogate rhino mothers.
The Frozen Zoo, which Benirschke founded, is portion of the Wildlife Biodiversity Bank and has expanded to involve mobile cultures and gametes from extra than 10,000 animals. Approximately 1,200 unusual and endangered species and subspecies are represented.
Zoo officials report that a lot more than 44 endangered species have been reintroduced into their native habitats.
Benirschke was outspoken and relentless in his mission to conserve wildlife and his insistence that zoos find out copy methods to preserve various species as its inhabitants age. He understood that replacement from the wild no for a longer time will be doable.
His bread and butter was curiosity — seeking answers to inquiries that generally led to fixing genetic mysteries and unearthing new types.
“Dad generally questioned: ‘Why? Why? Why?’” remembers Rolf, who is on the board of the Zoo Wildlife Alliance, which urged him to create his father’s story.
Early on, Benirschke’s curiosity was piqued by the nine-banded armadillo, which generally provides similar quadruplets, and led him to consider quite a few excursions to South The us to review other armadillo species.
He also puzzled why mules, the offspring of a horse bred with a donkey, ended up not able to reproduce. He learned the response — the horse has 64 chromosomes and the donkey has only 62. A mule has 63.
He revealed his results in preserving with his perception that investigate is considerably additional valuable when shared. To that conclude, he authored or co-authored 30 publications and a lot more than 500 scientific papers.
In 1967, Benirschke began annual publication of “An Atlas of Mammalian Chromosomes” with researcher T.C. Hsu, introducing the chromosome make-up of 50 new species every single year.
If you ask Rolf what his father would think about his best contributions, just one is his research on woman placentas that delivered clues to the wellbeing of newborns and fetal abnormalities. His textbook, “Pathology of the Human Placenta,” nonetheless is in use in clinical educational institutions right now.
The other is the strategy of One Medicine, afterwards referred to as 1 Health, which means people and animals could share some of the very same medical protocols and treatments. For example, an ophthalmologist for humans carried out cataract surgical procedures on a San Diego Zoo gorilla, and distinguished cardiologists operated on a Sumatran orangutan named Karen born with a hole in her coronary heart.
There truly was a “Jurassic Park” relationship to the San Diego Zoo. Soon after the art director of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster motion picture-in-the-creating was hosted by Benirschke and his crew, a lab scene in the movie was dependent on the visual appearance of the Frozen Zoo. Plus, entry gates to Jurassic Park were being motivated by gates at the Safari Park.
It was an odd pairing, without a doubt, when Benirschke teamed up with artist Andy Warhol to create a 1986 e-book, “Vanishing Animals.” The doctor wrote the text, and Warhol designed vibrant illustrations of 30 animals.
Rolf participated in several of his father’s adventures as a youth. Jointly they tracked barn owls in North County, mapping their nest spots and gathering pellets of regurgitated foods to dissect and establish the owls’ diet.
As a summer time zoo intern from 1974-1976, Rolf assisted acquire blood, tissue, stool and urine samples for investigation. He pursued a zoology degree from UC Davis but transformed vocation options right after he was drafted by the NFL.
He and one more intern carried out essential study on Galapagos tortoises. Shell and neck shapes diversified dependent on which island the tortoises lived. “My position as an intern was to see if they had been independent species,” claims Rolf.
Their examine of chromosomes verified the tortoises ended up essentially subspecies.
The two interns, similarly, done a important provider when the zoo had problem breeding parrots due to the fact males and women appeared identical in size and shade. They gathered fecal samples to evaluate the stages of estrogen and testosterone to decide intercourse.
Rolf describes his mother, Marion, as the glue that held the relatives with each other by way of their escapades — numerous of which transpired in the center of the night time when Kurt obtained a phone that a zoo animal had died, or had presented birth, or was below an anesthetic.
Rolf was generally at his side as he rushed about to collect samples of skin, placenta, tissue, eggs or sperm for study and preservation. “We’d get again at 5 a.m., and at 6:30 I’d have to get up for college,” Rolf recalls with a smile.
A few weeks ago, soon after the cloned colt was place on exhibit with a Przewalski woman named Holly, trustees had been pushed out to visit his habitat.
What would Rolf’s father say about the cloned Mongolian horse bearing his title?
“He would brush it off,” said Rolf. “It was hardly ever about Dad.”