Tuesday, April 16, 2013

VISIT TO THE QUAGGA?

I thought the zebra on my transferware child's plate, "Visit to the Zebra," had the wrong amount of stripes.  It's not as if I am a zebra expert, but its hind quarters looked a bit sparse.  When I googled zebras, I discovered an animal, a subspecies to the zebra, called a quagga.  Its stripes looked a bit like the animal on my plate.  I learned that the quagga was plentiful on the plains of South Africa in the early 19th century, but was hunted to extinction by the end of the century.  One of the last quaggas in captivity lived in the  London Zoo (also known as the London Zoological Gardens or the Regent's Park Zoo) in the 1870s (see the photo below), and the last one in captivity died in the Amsterdam Zoo in 1883.  (The quagga from the London Zoo was stuffed and placed in storage in the British Museum).  Here is where the story becomes magic or science fiction!  There is a Quagga Project that recreated the quagga or a zebra that looks like a quagga by 2005.  The process is called selective breeding.   Quagga DNA was extracted from preserved quaggas in 1984, but the technology to use the DNA for breeding does not yet exist.   But, perhaps, we will be able to have a real visit to the quagga someday.

Child's Plate, "Visit To The Zebra," circa 1840
Photo of a quagga in the London Zoo, circa 1870

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