Cloning Glory

She is possibly the most expensive baby in the country today and certainly among the most pampered.

Garima, the cloned buffalo calf born as part of a Rs 7 crore National Agricultural Innovation Project funded by World Bank, is growing handsomely at National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal.

Born a healthy 43 kg on June 6, the calf is now five-and-a-half months old.

Much to the relief and pride of the scientists at NDRI, Garima is a "normal and healthy baby" and is 170 kilos approximately an impressive weight for her age.

Director, NDRI, Dr AK Srivastava said that since the clone is a prized research material, she is under round-the-clock care. Reared for more than four months in an air-conditioned intensive care unit at the institute, Garima was moved to the calf section only a few weeks ago.

With hopes riding on her being high, she has an entire pen to herself. On account of the special diet given to her, she is much bigger than other calves her age, who weigh around 130 kilos. And since calves of this age are playful and can bite each other, Garima does not have any direct contact with them.

Dr Shiv Prasad, principal scientist at NDRI and the in-charge of the livestock farm at NDRI, says that since Garima has been with humans since her early calfhood days, she tends to connect more with them.

Seeing Harjinder, one of her caretakers, Garima avidly licks his hand in affection.

Says Dr Prasad, "We want to ensure a normal development for Garima, so she will be introduced to a small group of calves in due course of time, and then to a larger group."

The dairy scientists here are extra-cautious not without reason. Samrupa, the first buffalo calf cloned at NDRI, and also the first of its kind in the world, died of pneumonia when she was six days old a major setback for the research team here. Samrupa was born in February this year.

Both the calves were born through the advanced hand-guided cloning technique developed at NDRI. Dr Srivastava says that once this technique is optimised, it can go a long way in faster multiplication of superior milch animals in India. He points out that the country has maximum buffalos in the world, but the number of elite buffalos is low. "The technology developed at our institute has the potential to enhance the population of high-yielding, elite buffalos ."

The cloning project is part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between World Bank and Indian Council of Agricultural Research two years ago.

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