The world's first cloned wolves have been created in South Korea, using the same technique that enabled British scientists to create Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal.

The wolves are the work of a team once led by Woo Suk Hwang, the disgraced South Korean scientist who faked human stem-cell research. Although the two female wolves were born in October 2005, veterinary scientists at Seoul National University announced their achievement only yesterday after independent DNA tests finally verified their claims.

Professor Byung Chun Lee, who led the group, was a close colleague of Professor Hwang, who falsely claimed to have cloned human embryos and derived stem cells. Professor Lee was disciplined by his university and is still facing fraud charges over the affair. Professor Hwang was sacked, and has been accused of fraud, embezzlement and breaches of bioethics laws. The wolf cloning project was started before Professor Hwang's faked work came to light, and he is still named as an author on a paper that will report the success in Cloning and Stem Cells.

The journal required firm DNA evidence that the wolves were clones before it agreed to accept the paper. Professor Lee said: "Normally, scientific periodicals would not ask for mito-chondrial DNA verification but we needed to produce it due to previous problems." He did not produce this evidence at the press conference held to parade the cloned wolves.

Snuwolf and Snuwolffy, named after the abbreviation for Seoul National University, were born on October 18 and October 26, 2005, at about the same time as serious doubts were starting to emerge about the probity of the Hwang team. "They were the world's first cloned wolves but we decided to disclose our achievement today," said Nam Shik Shin, another member of the cloning team. "They are healthy and growing well."

In the experiment, DNA from adult cells from a female wolf bred in a zoo outside Seoul were placed into 251 eggs taken from female dogs, from which the genetic material had been removed. These were then implanted into 12 surrogate mothers, all captive wolves. Two live wolf pups were born, to different surrogate mothers.

The technique was fundamentally the same as the one used to create Dolly the sheep. Professor Lee said that cloning may help to preserve threatened species. Wolves of the breed cloned are extinct in the wild, and only ten are known to survive in captivity.

"In the case of animals on the brink of extinction, it's hard to preserve them even with artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation methods as their number is so small," he said. "The nuclear transplantation technology used in this case could be a way to restore the endangered species."

Professor Lee's group also pioneered the cloning of dogs and in December reported the birth of three cloned Afghan hounds, which were named Bona, Peace and Hope.

The announcement came as South Korea took its first tentative steps back into human cloning and stem-cell research, after suspending much of the work being carried out after the Hwang fraud. On Friday the Government lifted a moratorium on human cloning work that had stood for a year.

Double trouble

- 1996 Dolly the sheep, below, born at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh. Developed arthritis and died in 2003

- 2001 First use of cloning to preserve an endangered species. Noah, a rare ox called a gaur, cloned in US but dies soon after birth

- 2003 Prometea, the first cloned horse, born in Italy

- 2004 Woo Suk Hwang, of South Korea, announces the first cloned human embryos

- 2005 Doubts surface over Hwang's work, and he admits faking data

- 2006 Hwang found guilty of fraud by Seoul National University, and faces criminal charges. Korean human cloning papers withdrawn formally