Saving the DNA and the viable cells of the world's endangered animals
Over the next thirty years it is predicted that more than 1,000 species of mammals, a quarter of the world's total, and a similar proportion of birds, amphibians and marine animals (both invertebrates and vertebrates) will go extinct. Thousands of invertebrate species have already disappeared after the destruction of their habitats.
The Frozen Ark Project is a strategy to conserve the genetic resources of the world's endangered species. It is the animal equivalent of the the ‘Millennium Seed Bank’ created by Kew Gardens to conserve the seeds of the world’s plants.
The Ark’s consortium is a network of research and conservation bodies, including zoos, aquaria, natural history museums and research laboratories around the world. The charity’s office and laboratory is based within the University of Nottingham, which generously provides them at no charge.
The stored material is a treasure-trove of knowledge about many aspects of the biology, behaviour, ecology and evolution of the animals concerned. Preserved viable cells will enable conservation biologists to reverse the dangerous loss of genetic variation that can cause infertility and early death in breeding programmes. Many institutions around the world already store animal tissues and viable cells, but not always in a manner that allows the preservation of undamaged molecules, and seldom in coordination with other similar institutions. Few are aimed exclusively at endangered species and none is saving appreciable numbers of invertebrates, on which so many larger animals, including mankind, depend.