Welcome to the Frozen Ark
The earth is now suffering the greatest loss of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Despite efforts to preserve their environments, at least 30% of all land, fresh-water and marine animals will go extinct within the next fifty years. Growth in human populations has led to habitat destruction caused by the need for agricultural land, by over-fishing, by pollution, and by the acidification of the oceans. These changes are well documented by the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and by meetings at The Royal Society.
The Frozen Ark Project was set up in 1996 as a response to this crisis. Its objective is simple - to save samples of frozen cells containing DNA from endangered animals before they go extinct. Almost every single cell in an animal carries a complete blueprint of the animal stored in its DNA. Unless we save this information now it will be lost forever. The need is urgent
This is not an alternative to preserving animals in their natural environments or to keeping them in zoos, but a crucially important extra insurance.
Only very tiny samples are needed. They can be taken without pain to the animal concerned. Samples can be obtained from mouth swabs, from small numbers of hairs or feathers, from blood samples taken in routine veterinary treatments, or even from faeces. Once frozen, cells can be stored safely at very low temperatures, potentially for hundreds of years, in very little space. Ten million samples could be kept within the volume of an average house.
If they are frozen under the right conditions, many cells can be revived and regrown. Recent developments in molecular biology suggest that in the not-distant future animals could be recreated from these cells.
The frozen samples can also help currently endangered animals that have not yet gone extinct, to stay healthy by increasing genetic variation within their populations.
The Frozen Ark has now established a consortium of twenty-two major zoos, aquaria, museums and research institutions in eight countries around the world. All of them share our aims.