August 12 - Quagga - gone!

 Posted on August 2, 2022     

This is an update of my post published on August 2, 2011: 

Have you ever heard of quagga? This kind of zebra looked as if whoever was in charge of painting stripes ran out of paint. The horselike animal, native to South Africa, had vivid stripes on the head and neck. In the mid-section of the animal the white stripes faded and dark in-between stripes became wider. The rear section was solid brown.

The quagga used to be be classified as an individual species, but now it is considered a sub-species of the plains zebra.

Unfortunately, the quagga was hunted to extinction for meat, hides, and to prevent it from competing with farm animals. The last of the wild quagga was probably killed in the late 1870s. There were still some quagga in zoos, but on this day in 1883, the last one died in a zoo in Amsterdam.

One of the foals of the Quagga Project

The quagga is the first extinct animal to have its DNA studied. Recently a natural historian began a project to recreate the quagga by selective breeding from plains zebra stock. In 2005 the first foal of the Quagga Project was born, and by 2006 creatures that look very much like the quagga-of-old had appeared. 

This sort of “breeding back” project is controversial. Apparently the project's goal is to reintroduce the quagga back into the wild, but some scientists say that even creatures that look like the quagga will not be true quagga. There is no technology, so far, to use DNA recovered from quagga specimens in breeding—and that, some say, would be what was necessary to truly bring back an extinct species.

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