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20 MAR

China clones 'the Sherlock Holmes' of police dogs

by Sky News

By Lucia Binding, news reporter

Scientists in China have cloned what they call the "Sherlock Holmes of police dogs" in a bid to cut training times and costs.

Scientists took DNA from a seven-year-old female named Huahuangma – who has won a series of awards for helping to crack multiple cases – and created a puppy named Kunxun.

The Kunming wolfdog is China's first ever police dog clone and has adjusted well to her new environment, according to project analyst Wan Jiusheng.

"She is friendly to humans, sociable and alert," he told Science and Technology Daily.

He said the three-month-old puppy is not scared of the dark or unfamiliar places, and has already developed a strong sense of smell and can quickly find hidden food.

Kunxun is said to have begun basic training for police training at Kunming Police Dog Base in Yunnan.

After six months, she will start extensive training in drug detection, crowd control and security or evidence detection.

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She is expected to become a fully-trained police dog at around 10 months old.

To produce the cloned dog, Huahuangma's genetic material was extracted and sent to a laboratory in Beijing.

An embryo was then engineered using an egg from another dog and implanted into a surrogate mother.

"The surrogate was a gentle beagle," Sinogene project technician Liu Xiaojuan told Science and Technology Daily.

"To prevent complications and improve the survival rate, we carried out a caesarean section."

Image: The puppy has begun training in Kunming, a city in China's southern Yunnan province

Beagles are the standard breed used by the company, which charges a market rate of 380,000 yuan (£42,991) for each cloned dog, according to the South China Morning Post.

Dog training typically takes around five years and costs as much as 500,000 yuan (£56,611) with no guarantee of success, the China Daily said, citing an animal expert at Yunnan Agricultural University.

The project was carried out by the Beijing-based Sinogene Biotechnology Company and the Yunnan Agricultural University, with support from the Ministry of Public Security, the state-owned tabloid Global Times reported.

Sinogene hopes to achieve "volume production" of cloned police dogs in order to significantly reduce training times, but cloning costs remain the major obstacle, according to the company's general manager Zhao Jianping.

Huahuangma has been described by Kunming police dog base as "one in a thousand", with police dogs of a similar calibre hard to come by.

South Korean scientists were the first to create the world's first cloned dog in 2005. Two years later, the country began employing cloned Labrador retrievers to detect drugs for the customs service.

In December last year, a man in China successfully cloned a dog named Juice, who became famous for working on-screen in TV and movie productions.

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