China has successfully cloned Zhangmu and Apeijiaza cattle, two endangered breeds found in the Xizang Autonomous Region. Four male calves of each breed were born in Yunyang District, marking the world’s first successful cloning of Yunyang cattle.

The two rare breeds of yellow cattle native to the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau are strategic resources for China as they can help researchers breed varieties well adapted to the harsh high-altitude environment. According to the third national livestock and poultry genetic resources survey conducted in 2021 and 2022, there were only 19 heads of Zhangmu cattle in Shigatse City in Xizang and 39 of Apeijiaza in Nyingchi City in the autonomous region.

To urgently bring these animals back from the brink of extinction, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs sent a research team to Xizang in July 2022 to perform body measurements and collect blood and ear tissue samples from the two types of cattle. As there are currently no suitable conditions for cloning in Xizang, Yunyang District was chosen because of its climate and terrain similar to the cattle’s native habitat and its breeding technology.

In the laboratory, Yu Dawei, a researcher at the Institute of Animal Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and his colleagues used somatic cell nuclear transfer technology to create cloned embryos. Scientists began transplanting cloned embryos in February 2023 and finally overcame technological difficulties.

“The cloned embryos were transplanted into surrogate cows and we obtained eight cloned cattle,” Yu said. Two calves of each breed will be returned to Xizang this summer, while the remaining four will be raised to adulthood in Yunyang District and their semen will be collected and frozen for preservation.


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