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EXCLUSIVE – Kashmir’s Noori and her little lambs: World’s first Pashmina clone turns 8

Noori, world's first cloned Pashmina goat turns 8 (KM/Special Arrangement)

‘Noori has given birth to 4 lambs, all healthy. Funding killed what was a rare scientific breakthrough in Kashmir’

Srinagar: Scientists across the world working on clones and animal genetics have a reason to rejoice as the world’s first cloned Pashmina goat, ‘Noori’ has turned eight and has also given birth to four little lambs.

Strife-torn Kashmir achieved a rare feat in 2012 when its scientists gave India the second cloned animal and the world its first cloned Pashmina goat – Noori (The Light). India’s first cloned animal –‘Garima’, a buffalo calf – was born in Haryana in 2009.

Noori, world’s first cloned Pashmina goat turns 8 (KM/Special Arrangement

It took two years for Dr Riaz Shah and his eight-member scientists’ team to produce Noori which was born on March 9, 2012, using the foster mother. Success was achieved under the World Bank-funded National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and took two years for standardization of the technique.

“Noori is alive. She has delivered four offsprings – three males and one female. She is now eight years old. The normal life span of Pashmina goat is eight to ten years,” Dr Riaz Shah, professor, and chief scientist of animal biotechnology division at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), told The Kashmir Monitor.

Noori is among 25 Pashmina goats being reared by the scientists at the farm of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences. “There are 25 goats on our farm. Noori and her four offsprings are also there. She is hale and hearty. But there is a natural process for life and death,” said Dr Riaz. 

Omar Abdullah, the then Chief Minister of J&K, holding Noori in his lap in 2012 (File photo)

Pashmina goats are found in the cold desert of Ladakh. People in the region rear the goats for the wool which is used to make the exquisite Pashmina shawls and jamawars that has a very high demand in and outside Kashmir. Pashmina industry also provides livelihood to lakhs of Kashmiris who weave hand-made plain as well as embroidered shawls.

The four-year project ended in 2014. The second leg of the project could not take off because of the funding.  Scientists waited for years but the then government did not approve the second phase of the project. It was a prestigious scientific research programme which got international recognition.

Offspring of the world’s first cloned goat in China (source internet)

In fact, the then Vice-Chancellor of SKUAST Tej Pratap had told the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that the team associated with cloning of Pashmina goat is now working to produce a herd of cloned sheep-goats.

“This would lead to the production in greater number and good quality of Pashmina goats. University was looking forward to the rearing of Pashmina goats at Chang-Thang in Ladakh. Modern technology will be used for making fodder available to the Pashmina goats during the winter season,” Pratap had said.

Sources said had the second leg of the project been approved, the cloning process would have reached new heights in the country.

“It was a battle between politics and science.  Rulers cared two hoots about science. Had it been Europe, the government would have doubled the funding to continue the project,” said an officer.