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First wildcat kittens by cross-breeding cloned adults born
Eight kittens have been born in two litters over the last month, and all are apparently doing well. They were `produced` at a conservation institute in the United States. This is the first time that clones of a wild species have bred, and this new technique holds enormous potential for preserving a range of endangered species, as researchers from the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species say.

The litters were born to separate mothers, but share a father.

`By improving the cloning process and then encouraging cloned animals to breed and make babies, we can revive the genes of individuals who might not be reproductively viable otherwise, and we can save genes from animals in the wild,` commented Dr Betsy Dresser, who led the scientific team at the Audubon Center in New Orleans.

The animals are somewhat larger than a typical domestic cat, and many have a domestic-style tabby coat; though not endangered, they are a useful `model organism` for developing techniques which the researchers hope could one day be used to help preserve species at risk of extinction.

Not all conservationists believe that cloning has much value in preserving threatened species:

`While cloning is an intriguing scientific breakthrough that may enhance captive breeding in the years to come, it currently has no value for conservating endangered species in the wild,` said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF`s Species Programme.

`Cloning does nothing to reduce the most pressing threats to endangered species and their habitats; conservation requires work on entire populations and their habitats.`



Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/4172688.stm



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