Breeding back EXTINCT animal species is NOT POSSIBLE – because an entire gene pool has been lost.
The extinct Quagga was not a species of it's own as had been thought by some scientists. Tests have shown that the Quagga was the Southern Most Subspecies of the still widespread Plains Zebra (Burchell's Zebra). The Quagga was exterminated during the second half of the 19'th century. It occurred south of the Orange and Vaal rivers in South Africa.
The Quagga project attempts to breed, through selection, a population of Plains Zebras which in it's external appearance, and probably genetically too, will be closer, if not identical to the former Plains Zebra population of the Karoo and southern Free State, which is known as the "Quagga”.
It is evident from the 23 preserved skins of the extinct quagga that this former population displayed great individual variation. Present Plains zebra populations in southern africa also demonstrate great individual variation and include animals that have some Quagga characteristics such as a brownish basic colour, much reduced striping and a white tail-brush. In shape, size, habits and in it's call, the Quagga was virtually identical to living Plain Zebras.
By bringing selected individuals from free – living populations together, and through continuing selective breeding, it is hoped to concentrate the " Quagga genes ” and that a population will emerge that will be very similar to the original Quagga population.
A group of interested people, mainly scientists from various disciplines, formed the Quagga Project Committee in 1986. In March 1987 the first selected Zebras were caught in Etosha in Namibia and transported to the Western Cape. More selected Zebras were added to the breeding group, both from KwaZulu – Natal and Etosha during the following years.
INVOLVEMENT OF SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL PARKS:
South African National Parks joined forces with the Quagga project in March 1998. "Quaggas in the making” have already been introduced into the Karoo National Park during 1998 and into the Mountain Zebra National Park during 1999. The 14 Quagga project Zebras in the Karoo National Park have adapted well to their new environment and have given birth to 7 foals by the end of 1999.
By January 2000 the Quagga project included 66 Zebras, some of which represent the second offspring generation. Selective breeding will continue outside of and in National Parks. Specific individuals will, from time to time, be transferred between breeding groups.
It is hoped that in the not too distant future individuals will be born that matches the preserved original Quaggas.