The quagga

The quagga was a South African mammal that was previously thought to have been its own species, but was later found out to be a subspecies of zebra. I always thought it looked like the front half was a zebra and the back half was a horse. There were only five photographs ever taken of a quagga, this mare in London zoo (1863 – 1870).



Wikipedia says: The quagga had disappeared from much of its range by the 1850s. The last population in the wild, in the Orange Free State, was extirpated in the late 1870s. The last known wild quagga died in 1878. The specimen in London died in 1872 and the one in Berlin in 1875. The last captive quagga, a female in Amsterdam’s Natura Artis Magistra zoo, lived there from 9 May 1867 until it died on 12 August 1883, but its origin and cause of death are unclear. Its death was not recognised as signifying the extinction of its kind at the time, and the zoo requested another specimen; hunters believed it could still be found “closer to the interior” in the Cape Colony. Since locals used the term quagga to refer to all zebras, this may have led to the confusion. The extinction of the quagga was internationally accepted by the 1900 Convention for the Preservation of Wild Animals, Birds and Fish in Africa. Only one quagga was ever photographed alive, and only 23 skins exist today. In 1984, the quagga was the first extinct animal whose DNA was analysed.

BUT, DNA was taken from these taxidermied quaggas in Germany via small skin, tooth or bone fragments

….and look!

The website for The Quagga Project says

This project, started in 1987, is an attempt by a group of dedicated people in South Africa to bring back an animal from extinction and reintroduce it into reserves in its former habitat. The project is aimed at rectifying a tragic mistake made over a hundred years ago through greed and short sightedness. It is hoped that if this revival is successful, in due course herds showing the phenotype of the original quagga will again roam the plains of the Karoo.

I wondered if this was cloning but no it is not. Cloning requires live cells and for the quagga, all that is left is mitochondrial dna.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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