Iran has cloned an endangered animal with help from a surrogate sheep

Young mouflons in Cuba.
Young mouflons in Cuba.
Image: AP Photo/Javier Galeano
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Iranian scientists say they have successfully cloned a mouflon—an endangered wild sheep, nearly extinct due to illegal hunting—which was born to a domestic sheep surrogate mother at the country’s Royan Institute. The baby mouflon is two weeks old and healthy, the leading biomedical researcher at the Institute told The Guardian. The creature’s name is Maral, traditionally a Persian name for new babies (and also reindeer).

The scientists took cells from a mouflon through biopsy and inserted them into unfertilized eggs of a domestic sheep. The best embryos were then transferred to the womb of the surrogate mother. Interspecies cloning of endangered animals has been the subject of experiments for about 15 years, with limited success. Conservations groups point out that it does not help preserve shrinking wild animal habitats.

The Royan Institute is known for its infertility treatment for humans, pioneering in vitro fertilization in Iran and even drawing medical tourists from across the Middle East.