CAPE TOWN (WTNH)– An animal that went extinct over 100 years ago is coming back, thanks to a group of scientists. The creature is called the quagga and while that might not sound familiar, it is a close relative of the zebra.
Just like zebras, the quagga has stripes, but for them they only appear on the front half of their bodies, and they are also brown on the rear half of their bodies. CNN reports that a group of scientists outside of Cape Town, Africa, called The Quagga Project, have bred an animal that looks extremely similar by using DNA and selective breeding.
In the past, the quagga roamed South Africa, but they went extinct around the 1880s after European settlers killed them at an alarming rate. However, CNN reports that after testing remaining quagga skins, which revealed the animal was a sub species of the plains zebra, the scientists hypothesized that the genes which characterized the quagga would be present in zebras and could be manifested through selective breeding.
“The progress of the project has in fact followed that prediction. And in fact we have over the course of 4, 5 generations seen a progressive reduction in striping, and lately an increase in the brown background color showing that our original idea was in fact correct,” Eric Harley, the project’s leader, told CNN.
However not everybody thinks the project was a complete success. There are several critics who believe that the project was all a stunt and that all the scientists did was create a different looking zebra.
“There are a lot of detractors who are saying you can’t possibly put back the same as what was here,” says fellow project leader Mike Gregor to CNN. Adding, “there might have been other genetic characteristics [and] adaptations that we haven’t taken into account.”
The researches say there are only six of the creatures that they now call “Rau quaggas,” (after the project’s originator Reinhold Rau) but when they have 50 of them, they then plan for the herd to live together on one reserve.
Harley tells CNN, “if we can retrieve the animals or retrieve at least the appearance of the quagga, then we can say we’ve righted a wrong.”