Scientists are considering drastic measures to save the giant panda from extinction.
The same experts who cloned Dolly the sheep almost twenty years ago have taken tissue samples from Tian Tian and Yang Guang at Edinburgh Zoo
These samples were then used the tissue to create more cells, the first step in making genetic copies of the animals.
The cloning plans comes after years of failed attempts to get Tian Tian and Yang Guang to mate. Earlier this year, Tian Tian was artificially inseminated but lost the baby.
The plan is not without detractors. Conservation groups point out that cloned animals can suffer major health problems – Dolly the sheep was euthanised at six-years-old due to health problems.
Dr Bill Ritchie, who is involved in the project, told the Mail Online, “the fact that you can grow cells is a step on the way.”
“This may be a source for a cloning project. People are wary about cloning and would rather go with conventional methods, but pandas are an anomaly because of their lifestyle. This is a step in bringing back an endangered species or helping preserve them.”
There are currently only around 2,000 giant pandas left in the wild, living in the mountain ranges of central China. Farming and deforestation have driven the panda out of the lower land areas it used to inhabit.
Explore more about this endangered species here.