After becoming the first country to clone the buffalo, scientists in India have made a breakthrough by successfully cloning the first Pashmina goat. The healthy female kid was born on March 9, 2012.
A six-member-team of scientists from Karnal’s National Dairy Research Institute and Jammu’s Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology used somatic cells from the ear of a donor goat to create the clone.
Pashmina is a special breed of goat, indigenous to the high altitudes (above 3,000 mts) of the Himalayas. The sought after Pashmina wool—legendary for its softness and warmth— is made with the fur of these goats.
Each Pashmina fibre is about one-sixth the width of a human hair, and one shawl requires about 24 ounces of wool, the annual output of about four goats.
Unfortunately, the annual Pashmina production in India hardly crosses 40 tonnes—less than 0.5% of the total world production of approximately 10,000 tonnes per annum. Even worse, while the world Pashmina production has almost doubled from 5,000 tonnes in the early nineties, the Indian Pashmina industry has remained static with the Changthang plateau of Ladakh contributing almost 90% of the total production.
Every year, a single goat sheds 100-250 gm of wool compared to 750-1,000 gm per annum in countries like China, Russia and Mongolia.
Scientists say low rates of animal productivity, static population and high disease prevalence is seriously hampering Pashmina production in India.
Successfully cloning the animal will help multiply the number of Pashmina goats drastically. One goat would have given birth to a single offspring every year. Through cloning, we can get surrogate mothers to give birth to 40-50 off-springs annually.
Pashmina wool is the finest in the world, second only to Shahtoosh made from the wool of the Chiru or Tibetan antelope. However, international trade in Shahtoosh shawls has been banned to protect the endangered species. Too delicate for machine driven looms, Pashmina wool is spun and woven by hand.