At this scientific facility in the deserts of Dubai, the moment Dr Nisar Ahmad Wani, a Kashmiri scientist, comes out of the Reproductive Biology Laboratory he heads, and says Injaz, a beautiful camel comes running to him. The animal lowers her tall neck for a slobbery kiss while the two also share a hug. The duo almost enjoys a father-child relationship. And all of this because Injaz is world’s first cloned camel and Dr Wani is the veterinarian who achieved the feat.
Injaz, which means “achievement” in Arabic, was cloned by Dr Wani in 2009 from the ovarian cells of a dead camel. Over the years Dr Wani has produced numerous clone camels. Interestingly, though largely acclaimed as “Father of Camel Cloning”, Dr Wani, who is in his early 40s, had never seen the camels before coming to Dubai for a job!
“I had never seen camels before, except once during a tour to Rajasthan. But after I came here and started work on the project in 2003, I found that they are really fantastic animals with very sharp memory and other miraculous qualities,” Dr Wani told InUth during an exclusive interview at his state-of-the-art laboratory at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai.
InUth is the first Indian digital media platform to have visited the facility, established under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. The lab is mandated to develop and apply the latest biotechnology techniques to enhance the production of the animals of the region.
While Injaz was cloned for research, the subsequent cloning has been mainly to produce copies of racing camels. Camel racing is the most popular game in the Middle East where such sporting animals cost millions of dollars each. Over the years, Dr Wani has been producing prized copies of racing champions. “Around one dozen clones are produced annually.”
This expertise of Dr Wani makes him one of the most influential scientists in the Middle East. And like its said that behind every successful man is a woman, Dr Wani finds that inspiration in his wife, Dr Shabina who is also a vet. However, Mrs. Wani has now having given up her job to be a homemaker. “Nothing would have been possible without her support. She was always there whenever I needed her,” Dr Wani says with a smile.
Getting back to his scientific work, cloning camels wasn’t an easy job. With no previous experience in the field, Dr Wani says he had no clues where to begin from. “This was never done before, so I started from scratch.”
Months of hard work finally bore fruit with the birth of Injaz. Though over the years numerous clones were produced, Dr Wani says that Injaz is priceless. There’s an emotional bond between the two. Dr Wani has delicately nursed her since she was a cell on the microscope slide, to the time when she herself is on her way to motherhood. Yes, Injaz now mothers a baby born through natural copulation! Dr Wani says it was done to prove that clones can live and reproduce normally like other camels.
Interestingly, Dr Wani looks jealous that Injas now often ignores him. And he vents out his feelings with a witty smile saying: “I feel like almost being her father but now my daughter ignores me because now she too has her own child!”