Massive Hybrid Sheep Cloning Scheme depicting an image of sheep or ram skulls.

"Massive Hybrid Sheep" Cloning Scheme

Updated Mar 15, 2024 at 01:20PM EDT by Zach.

Added Mar 15, 2024 at 03:36AM EDT by Rebecca Rhodes.

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Overview

Massive Hybrid Sheep Cloning Scheme refers to a crime in Montana in which an 80-year-old rancher and an unknown number of accomplices illegally created gigantic hybrid sheep through cloning, aiming to sell them for trophy hunters to kill for sport. The eight-year scheme involved breaking numerous national and international laws, as well as conspiring with a cloning lab, in order to create and sell the giant sheep. After the story broke in mid-March 2024, it generated significant media coverage and conspiratorial discourse online.

Background

On March 12th, 2024, Arthur Schubarth of Vaughn, Montana pled guilty to creating giant hybrid sheep. In order to pull off the hybridization, Schubarth illegally imported sheep testicles and other parts from Kyrgyzstan to splice the DNA of the world’s largest sheep species, the Marco Polo sheep, with other species in the United States. The embryos were grown in a lab through cloning, creating a new species he referred to as the Montana Mountain King sheep, which he then bred with other sheep via artificial insemination. At least five others were involved in the mass cloning and sheep hybridization scheme.[1]



The news was first announced in a press release from the Montana Office of Public Affairs[2] on March 12th, 2024, explaining that Schubarth and his accomplices had violated both international law and the Lacey Act, which protects native wildlife populations, over the course of eight years, with the scheme active from 2013 through 2021. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Association investigated the case and arrested Schubarth, who will soon face trial (excerpt from press release seen below).

According to court documents, Schubarth conspired with at least five other individuals between 2013 and 2021 to create a larger hybrid species of sheep that would garner higher prices from shooting preserves. Schubarth brought parts of the largest sheep in the world, Marco Polo argali sheep (Ovis ammon polii), from Kyrgyzstan into the United States without declaring the importation. Average males can weigh more than 300 pounds with horns that span more than five feet. Marco Polo argali are native to the high elevations of the Pamir region of Central Asia. They are protected internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, domestically by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are prohibited in the State of Montana to protect native sheep from disease and hybridization.

Online Reactions

Numerous news outlets began to share the story on March 13th, 2024. One notable March 13th article was released by CBS News, with a Twitter / X[3] post by @CBSNews announcing the article and earning over 130 likes and 70 reposts in a day (seen below, left). The same day, X[5] user @ChazakielDoremi parodied the news headline in a retweet that earned 90 likes and 23 reposts in a day (below, right).


CBS News @CBSNews An 80-year-old man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two felony wildlife crimes connected to his years-long efforts to create giant hybrid sheep using cloning and illegal insemination, federal prosecutors said. Man spent years trying to create giant hybrid sheep to be "sold and hunted as trophies," ... From cbsnews.com 4:00 PM - Mar 13, 2024 54.6K Views 15 tz 74 135 , 23 <] Moon Angel Doremi (1/4 short story slots filled) @ChazakielDoremi Charming! This 80 year old mad scientist still serves abominations against nature the old fashioned way CBS News @CBS News Mar 13 An 80-year-old man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two felony wildlife crimes connected to his years-long efforts to create giant hybrid sheep using cloning and illegal insemination, federal prosecutors said. cbsn.ws/3Tejtxk 6:05 PM - Mar 13, 2024 1,850 Views β—‹ 2 2723 90 Ξ£ ☐ 5 ←]

Social media users reacted to the news with confusion, sometimes quoting the "massive hybrid sheep" line seen in numerous news articles about the event. For instance, Twitter / X[4] user @ericgarland posted that he did not have a "giant hybrid sheep" conspiracy on his bingo card, which received over 80 likes and 40 reposts in just over a day (seen below).


6 Eric Garland @ericgarland Mar 13 I did not have "Giant Hybrid Sheep" conspiracy on my bingo card - but biotech that can create new species out of...sheep from Kyrgyzstan... it sounds like there's a lot going on there. DOJ Environment and Natural Resources β–Έ @DOJEnvironn Mar 13 Montana Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Wildlife Trafficking Charges as Part of Yearslong Effort to Create Giant Hybrid Sheep for Captive Hunting : justice.gov/opa/pr/montana... KENT OF JU PRESS RELEASE Montana Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Wildlife Trafficking Charges as Part of Yearslong Effort to Create Giant Hybrid Sheep for Captive Hunting MARCH 12, 2 2024 NA JUSTITIA 1743 85 Ill 6.5K 口企

Developments

Schubarth is set to be sentenced on July 11th, 2024. For each felony count, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine of $250,000.

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