Beijing: China's first commercial animal cloning company has successfully cloned three pure-blooded Tibetan mastiff puppies, in a boost to the Communist nation's multi-million dollar pet market for high-quality breeds.
The cloning company, a joint venture between Boya Life, based in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, and Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, from South Korea, was set up yesterday in Weihai City in east China's Shandong Province.
On the same day, three pure-blooded Tibetan mastiff puppies cloned by the company were born to a surrogate mother.
The puppies were cloned from an eight-year-old hound named Jiama. The shaggy, lion-like mastiff, native to southwest China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has won several championships in China for the breed.
The Tibetan mastiff is one of the world's most expensive dog breeds. A pure pedigree pup was sold for a record 15 million yuan (2.4 million US dollars) last year.
The breed, known for its loyal but fierce disposition, has traditionally been used as a shepherd and watchdog by Tibetan herders. In recent years, they have been preferred pets and guardians for the country's nouveau riche, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The cloning company official said it hopes to improve China's pet market through more high-quality breeds.
The issue of cloning is still controversial in China. Prior to the firm's establishment, cloning in China had been limited to scientific research, the report said.
But now, more and more companies have shown interest in investing in the technology for commercial use, such as in the animal husbandry industry, it said.
The pet population in China has increased to 30 million, making it the world's third-largest pet market after overtaking Japan, with 22 million, in 2012, according to a study by reinsurer Munich Re.