Maya, the first successful arctic wolf clone, turned 100 days old recently, and she’s absolutely thriving. The cloned wolf made her debut in September at Harbin Polarland in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province of China with her beagle surrogate mother. Maya was cloned by bioengineers at Beijing’s Sinogene Biotechnology in July.
The scientists at Sinogene worked painstakingly for two years before Maya came into the world. “To save the endangered animal, we started the research cooperation with Harbin Polarland on cloning the Arctic wolf in 2020,” said Sinogene general manager Mi Jidong. “After two years of painstaking efforts, the Arctic wolf was cloned successfully. It is the first case of its kind in the world.”
Maya was cloned from another arctic wolf named Maya. The original Maya died at 16 years old, which is considered old age for a wolf. Sinogene took genetic material from Maya 1.0 and created 137 embryos using eggs from female dogs. They then implanted 85 of those eggs into 7 beagle surrogates. In July of this year, Maya 2.0 was born.
Maya 2.0 turned 100 days old on September 19, and reported in good health. Currently, she lives with her beagle mother at Sinogene, but her handlers will eventually transfer her to Harbin Polarland. She may have to live there for the rest of her life, Sinogene reports, because she didn’t have early socialization with other wolves and therefore couldn’t live in the wild.
“The newly born wolf has the same genome as the original wolf, but the cloned wolf hasn’t lived with other wolves, but with a dog,” said Zhao Jianping, Sinogene’s deputy general manager.
What the First Cloned Arctic Wolf Could Mean for Endangered Species
This exceptional cloning is important because we could essentially clone animals of endangered species and boost the population in the future. “It is relatively easier to clone canines and cats,” said Zhao. “We’ll continue to work in this field. In the next step, we may clone rare wild animals other than canines or cats […] and it will be more difficult.”
Ensuring that we don’t exacerbate a mass extinction event–scientists believe Earth is in the midst of a sixth event due to human activity–means making sure our planet remains biodiverse and rich with wildlife. In this way, cloning can help scientists prevent future extinctions before they happen.
Currently, some bioengineers are trying to bring animals back from complete extinction, like the Tasmanian tiger or the wooly mammoth. The Dallas, Texas de-extinction company Colossal Biosciences is working toward just this goal. Because the Tasmanian tiger only went extinct in the 1930s, there are more intact DNA samples available. The end goal for de-extinction sciences is to basically do what cloning is doing: save devastated species from the brink.