Cloned Tabby Wildcats Have Kittens |Mark North||08/26/05 at 11:10:11|Mark_North|xx|0||Fri Aug 19, 8:13 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - The little tabby wildcats are just doing what comes  naturally,
but the people who cloned them say their kittens are the last bit of  proof
that cloning can help save endangered species.

Ditteaux, clone of the male African wildcat Jazz, fathered eight  kittens on
two clones of Nancy, a female unrelated to Jazz.

It wasn't unexpected. Cloned sheep, mice and cattle have reproduced  
naturally. But it's the first time that clones of two wild species, or any cats,  have
done so, according to scientists at Audubon Center for Research of  
Endangered Species.

"By improving the cloning process and then encouraging cloned animals to  
breed and make babies, we can revive the genes of individuals who might not be  
reproductively viable otherwise, and we can save genes from animals in the  
wild," director Betsy Dresser said.

Properly preserved skin samples from a long-dead but genetically valuable  
animal could be cloned, and the cloned animal could breed, she said.

The kittens five born July 26 to Madge and three born Aug. 2 to Caty  
will be exhibited later this year at Audubon Zoo. When they mature, they will be
moved to the small cat colony at the Audubon Center for Research of
Endangered  Species.

The center is also working with critically endangered small cats, such as  
fishing cats and rusty spotted cats, as well as with clouded leopards, bongo  
antelope, and birds including sandhill cranes, whooping cranes, African  
saddlebill storks, milky storks and Jabiru storks.||