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Indian scientists in Kashmir clone rare Himalayan goat famed for cashmere wool


Kashmiri nomads walk with their herd of goats and sheep on a mountainous road after the Srinagar-Leh highway 55 miles east of Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir, May 2, 2011.



Scientists in Indian-controlled Kashmir say they have cloned a rare Himalayan goat, of the kind famed for its silky pashmina wool — or cashmere.

The Indian Express cited the team from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology (SKUAST) named the goat Noori ("light" in Arabic) as saying the goat was in good health since her birth on March 9.

"This is a great scientific achievement in the field of veterinary sciences. This is the first cloned Pashmina goat in the world," the Express quoted the team's leader, Dr Riyaz Ahmad Shah of SKUAST’s Department of Animal Biotechnology, as saying.

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Shah, part of the team at the National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal that produced the world's first cloned buffalo calf in 2009, said Noori's birth could spark breeding programs across the region and mass production of the high-priced wool.

Cashmere is a major source of income for Kashmir, according to Fox News, however, experts say their numbers are dwindling, forcing the local industry to import the wool from neighboring China to keep up production of the region's renowned hand-woven shawls.

A shawl can cost $200 in Kashmir — a disputed state bordering on Pakistan — and much more when sold abroad.

The average Kashmiri income is $800 a year.

According to the Washington Post, the goats — which take their name from the Kashmir region — are herded in small numbers across the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau in harsh, windy climates that promote the growth of their soft undercoat.

The Post quoted Maajid Hassan, another veterinarian who worked on the project, which was partly funded by the World Bank, as saying: "We’ve standardized the procedure. Now it will take us half a year to produce another."

The team already has started work on more clones at the university.