Police in China’s southwestern Yunnan province claimed to have cloned a sniffer dog to pare down the time it would take to train the new canines, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
A female Kunming wolfdog (a breed similar to the German shepherd) named Kunxun was allegedly born in December of last year—the country’s first cloned police dog.
According to Xinhua, she was replicated from a seven-year-old female named Huahuangma by scientists at Sinogene, the first biotech company in China to offer pet cloning services.
Kunming Police Dog Base of the Ministry of Public Security wanted to preserve Huahuangma’s pedigree, as she “played important roles in helping detectives with dozens of murder investigations” and “has scored a couple of A's,” officer Wan Jiusheng told Xinhua.
The prized dog was cloned from somatic cells sampled from her skin, which were used to create an embryo that was implanted into a female beagle, Engadget reported.
“As a cloned dog, Kunxun does not have brothers or sisters. She is rather independent,” Wan said.
The facility claimed that cloning Huahuangma would save time and money spent on training efforts, but genetics can only go so far. Cloning doesn’t guarantee that a dog’s behavior will mirror that of its genetic donor, as some portion is biologically inherited, while another is more dependent on environmental factors, Scientific American reported last year.
The new puppy will undergo training just like any police dog, Xinhua stated. “We are not sure about her future. I hope she can fully develop her abilities in training,” Zhang Song, a police dog training specialist, told the news outlet.
China has no laws that specifically pertain to animal cloning, Reuters reported last year. While the service is still extremely cost prohibitive (Sinogene charges at least US$55,065 per pet), cloning has met ethical barriers, too.
As noted by Smithsonian Magazine, some scientists are investigating whether cloned specimens have higher risks of disease compared to their originals. When the first commercially cloned pet in the US was born in 2004, a kitten named Little Nicky, animal welfare groups criticized the decision as an affront to the millions of adoptable pets that enter shelters each year.
Chinese police officials stressed that Kunxun is only a prototype, so to speak.
“This is only a trial; a lot more scientific research is needed,” Zhang said.