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Brazil eyes cloning to bolster endangered species

Scientists in Brazil will try cloning endangered animal species like the jaguar, a researcher said Wednesday.

"The idea is to start with an animal that is endangered, or where species numbers have gone down sharply, such as the jaguar, the maned wolf or even the local deer," said Carlos Frederico Martins, a researcher with Embrapa Cerrado.

State-run Embrapa, the government's animal research unit, is launching the effort jointly with the Brasilia Zoo, the institutions told AFP. They are set to sign a joint agreement.

The research will also include experiments on artificial insemination and embryo transplants for species at risk.

A cloned animal would not be released back to nature, and would contribute little to saving its species in the short run.

But over time, animals that underwent artificial insemination or embryo transplants could be released.

Martins said it could be a few years before a wild animal is cloned in Brazil. A cow has already been cloned in the country and was born in March 2001.

Researchers clone farm animals to improve their desirable characteristics and efficiency. Brazil is the world's top beef exporter.

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