Copy cat: Chinese firm creates first cloned kitten

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Above, China’s first cloned kitten Garlic with a carer at the pet-cloning outfit Sinogene. (AFP)
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China’s first cloned kitten Garlic, left, with its surrogate mother at the pet-cloning outfit Sinogene. (AFP)
Updated 05 September 2019

Copy cat: Chinese firm creates first cloned kitten

  • Garlic was created by Chinese firm Sinogene, the Beijing-based company’s first successfully copied cat
  • Pet cloning is illegal in many countries but approved in countries including South Korea and the US

BEIJING: Seven months after Huang Yu’s pet cat Garlic died, the British shorthair was given a 10th life.
Born on July 21, the new Garlic was created by Chinese firm Sinogene, becoming the Beijing-based company’s first successfully copied cat.
The pet-cloning outfit has made more than 40 pet dogs — a procedure that costs a hefty 380,000 yuan ($53,000), while the price for a cat comes in at 250,000 yuan ($35,000).
Mi Jidong, the company’s chief executive officer, said that despite the high price tag, not all clients were high earners.
“In fact, a large proportion of customers are young people who have only graduated in the last few years,” he said.
“Whatever the origin of pets, owners will see them as part of the family. Pet cloning meets the emotional needs of young generations.”
Huang, 23, was overjoyed on first seeing Garlic’s second incarnation, saying the “similarity between the two cats is more than 90 percent.”

“When Garlic died, I was very sad,” said Huang. “I couldn’t face the facts because it was a sudden death. I blame myself for not taking him to the hospital in time, which led to his death.”
The happy owner says he hopes the personality of the new Garlic is as similar to his old white-and-grey cat as its appearance.
With a growing pet market in China, and a huge appetite among their owners for spending, Mi thinks the market for pet cloning is also set to rocket.
According to a report by Pet Fair Asia and pet website Goumin.com, pet-related spending in China reached 170.8 billion yuan ($23.7 billion) in 2018.
And the country’s scientists have big aspirations for their next cloning challenge, working on the theory that if cats can be cloned, so can pandas.
Chen Dayuan — an expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who has been researching giant panda cloning for 20 years — said there could even be scope for cats to give birth to cloned baby pandas, which are smaller than baby cats despite their large size when fully grown.
Pet cloning is illegal in many countries but approved in countries including South Korea and the US, where singer Barbra Streisand announced last year she had cloned her dog.
The first major success in animal cloning was Dolly the sheep, born in Britain in 1996 as the first mammal cloned from an adult cell.
In 2005, researchers in South Korea cloned the first dog. The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul says it has cloned some 800 pets and charges $100,000 each.


Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

Updated 6 min 2 sec ago

Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

  • Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring
THE HAGUE: Tourists are being ripped off at Amsterdam’s famous flower market, with just one percent of all bulbs sold at the floating bazaar ever producing a blossom, investigators said Tuesday.
A probe commissioned by the Dutch capital’s municipality and tulip growers also found that often only one flower resembled the pictures on the packaging like color, and that there were fewer bulbs than advertised.
“The probe showed that there is chronic deception of consumers,” at the sale of tulip bulbs at the flower market, the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB) said.
“Millions of tourists and day-trippers are being duped,” KAVB chairman Rene le Clercq said in a statement.
Amsterdam and the KAVB have now referred the matter to the Dutch consumer watchdog.
The Amsterdam flower market is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and dates from around 1862, when flower sellers sailed their barges up the Amstel River and moored them in the “Singel” to sell their goods.
Its fame inspired the popular song “Tulips from Amsterdam,” best known for a 1958 version by British entertainer Max Bygraves.
Today the market comprises of a number of fixed barges with little greenhouses on top. Vendors not only sell tulip bulbs but also narcissus, snowdrops, carnations, violets, peonies and orchids.
But of 1,363 bulbs bought from the Singel and then planted, just 14 actually bloomed, the investigation said.
Investigators found a similar problem along the so-called “flower bulb boulevard” in Lisse, a bulb-field town south of Amsterdam where the famous Keukenhof gardens are also situated.
Since first imported from the Ottoman Empire 400 years ago, tulips “have become our national symbol and the bulb industry a main player in the Dutch economy,” said Le Clercq.
But the “deception about the tulip bulbs is a problem that has been existing for the past 20 years,” he added.

The victims are often tourists, KAVB director Andre Hoogendijk said.
“A tourist who buys a bad bulb is not likely to come back,” he told Amsterdam’s local AT5 news channel.
Vendors at the market told AT5 that complaints were known.
“There are indeed stalls here that sell rubbish. That is to everyone’s disadvantage, because it portrays the whole flower market in a bad light,” one unidentified vendor said.
But a spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam said that all vendors were being investigated “and that the results are shocking.”
“So to say that it is only a few stalls is not true,” the spokesperson told AFP in an email.
The probe took place earlier in the year during springtime, the spokesperson said.
“The issue is that you shouldn’t even sell tulip bulbs during the spring. No decent florist shop in Holland does that.”
Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring.