Following a nod from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), scientists of the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) have started work to clone wild buffalo, a native species of Chhattisgarh.
The government of the central Indian state had approached the NDRI to clone its state animal, known as "ban bhainsa" or the wild buffalo.
It will be for the first in India that cloning is being seen as a viable option for any wildlife conservation project.
Experts said the wild animal is similar to bison in appearance but it is a different and rare species.
Sources added that once found in abundance in central India, these buffaloes are restricted only to few places in forests of Chhattisgarh now.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), wild buffalo is in the Red List or the extremely endangered species.
It is also a Schedule I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
On January 28, HT was first to report that the NDRI director had written to the ICAR for the latter's permission to go ahead with the ambitious project.
Principal investigator of the project and a senior animal biotechnologist of NDRI, Dr SK Singla told Hindustan Times on Friday that early this month a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the institute and the Chhattisgarh government.
"This is a challenging three-year contract science project to conserve the highly endangered wildlife species. Work on the project has been started and a clone would be prepared by using somatic cells from ear of the wild animal," he said.
Singla, the key scientist behind the series of cloning successes undertaken by the NDRI on buffaloes, said cloning a wild species was not a simple project.
He said studies confirm that chromosomes of domestic and wild buffaloes were almost same and the experience at the NDRI would help in the project.
"Only a few wild buffalos are left in the Udanti forest of Chhattisgarh. The wild animals do not allow us to take body samples for cloning task and we have to be extremely careful," he said.