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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 15:08 GMT
Clone plan for extinct goat

Goats occur across the Spanish mountains Goats occur across the Spanish mountains

The last known survivor of a rare species of Spanish mountain goat has been found dead, killed by a falling tree.

Forest rangers in the Ordesa National Park in northern Spain found the 13-year-old female with a crushed skull last Thursday.

"This is a case of extinction," said park director Luis Marquina even though the breed was declared a protected species in 1973.

However, veterinarians working for the Aragon regional government had captured the last ibex in spring 1999 and taken a tissue sample from its ear, in case they needed to clone it. They then attached an electronic tracer and released the animal.

Male tissue

The prospects of successful cloning are reasonable, if the desire and the funding exists.

Pictures of bucardos are rare Pictures of bucardos are rare
Carlos Ontanon, Aragon's environmental director said no decision has yet been made to press ahead with such a project.

Tissue from animal ears has been used to clone sheep and cows and recent research has shown that older tissue is at least as good as fresh tissue for the purpose.

Goats have also been cloned, by US company Genzyme Transgenics in October 1998. However, the only tissue stored from the Spanish goat is from a female, so only females could be cloned. To start a new herd of the goats, male tissue would be needed.

Landslide disaster

The Pyrenean goat was the last example of a subspecies called Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica, known locally as a "bucardo".

It had a thick coat to keep it warm in its chilly mountain home and the females had horns with a broader base than that of other kinds of goats.

Mr Marquina said figures were hard to come by but that the population of the subspecies had once stretched north across the border into the French Pyrenees.

However, its numbers had dwindled steadily over the past century as a result of poaching, environmental factors and natural disasters like landslides.

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See also:
27 Apr 99 |  Sci/Tech
Scientists clone a goat
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