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Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times
Srinagar, March 13, 2012
Achieving a rare feat, Kashmir has created its first cloned animal species of rare pashmina goat. Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir, researchers successfully created ‘Pashmina Kid’ on March 9. “The cloned animal took birth after more than two years of scientific research and through an elaborate process of cloning. It’s just a beginning and the work on the clone is on,” said Dr Raiz Ahmad Shah, an associate professor of the Centre of Animal Biotechnology at the varsity. Shah headed the team of researchers for the project.

The valley owes its fame, besides natural beauty, to fine wool of pashmina, gathered from after the goat sheds its wool as a natural process in Ladakh. The goat survives minus 40 degree Celsius temperature at an altitude of 14,000 feet.

In spring, the animal sheds its fiber, called soft pashm, six times finer than human hair. The fiber is used to spun famous Kashmiri shawls, scarves, and stoles.

“The high point of the clone is that it was produced at low altitude. Pashmina goats are found only in higher altitudes of Ladakh in a particular environmental setting, different from Kashmir valley. So producing it at a lower altitude is itself a success,” said Shah.

Shah along with other six research associates achieved the feat at a laboratory set up at Alastaingh near Srinagar where around 20 goats are under scientific spotlight.

India produced its first a cloned buffalo calf “Garima” at a lab in Karnal, Haryana, in 2009. ‘Pashmina kid’ is second cloned animal of the country.

The researchers made the breakthrough “through advanced reproductive techniques.”

“It took two years for standardisation of the technique,” said Shah.

The experiment is funded by the World Bank under National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP).

“The clone will go a long way to boost research in Kashmir. We have to see how much pashmina yield is possible from the clone at lower altitude like Kashmir valley. But the clone has come at a time when many residents in upper reaches of Ladakh is giving up pashmina goat rearing,” said Kashmir animal husbandry director Farooq Ahmad Shah.