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Animal Archive (video)
May 22, 2001
Also on ScienCentral News
Cloning Fido - With the recent advances in genetics resulting from the cloning of the sheep, Dolly, we may soon be able to copy our pets. (3/23/2000)
Cloning Youth - Scientists announced a major step in refining the process of cloning. They say theyve solved the problem of premature aging. (4/27/2000)
Frozen Zoo - To preserve genetic diversity, scientists are freezing cells from endangered animals. One zoo is even trying to clone a lion. (11/20/1998)
Elsewhere on the web
Bonobo Protection Fund at Georgia State University
American Museum of Natural Historys frozen tissue collection
The Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES)
Cincinnati Zoo Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW)
Smithsonian Conservation and Research Center
Its a fact that animal species are fast disappearing because of human activity. But the San Diego Zoo is trying a different approach to save the animals.
As this ScienCentral News video report shows, they are trying to preserve their DNA and crack their genetic code.
Most of the medias attention to frozen zoos has focused on efforts to clone endangered or extinct species. In fact, the San Diego Zoo Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) provided the tissue used in the first-ever cloning of an endangered species. Noah the male gaur born in January, 2001, died within two days of his birth from an infection scientists say was not related to the cloning. The company that cloned Noah, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. also has an agreement with the Spanish government to clone an already extinct species, the bucardo mountain goat.
Other highly-publicized candidates for cloning include the endangered Giant Panda and Australias extinct Tasmanian Tiger.
While some conservationists fear that cloning threatens to shift the focus away from habitat preservation, scientists involved in cloning efforts say habitat preservation remains all-important because just as with captive breeding programs, the objective is to return survivors to the wild. Advanced Cells CEO, Michael D. West , sees cloning as a real alternative to captive breeding when numbers in the wild get low. "The upside of captive breeding programs is that they take care of these animals and may increase their numbers," West said. "But you have to take the animal out of its natural habitat, and thats exactly the opposite of what you want to be doing. Cloning opens the possibility of taking a small piece of tissue while preserving the animal in its environment."
Experts also point out that preserving tissues now so that they can be cloned in the future is not the sole purpose of frozen zoos. "The value of genetic resource collections cannot be overlooked," said Oliver Ryder, head of the CRES Genetics Department. "Although we may not be able to anticipate the future uses of collections of viable frozen cells and extracts of nucleic acids, access to these materials is more readily available now than will be the case in the future. What would the future ask us to be doing now?"
According to Ryder, genomic information is also important for assessing and monitoring populations of endangered species, for understanding extreme evolutionary adaptations (such as the Giant Pandas specialized bamboo diet), and for animal health research including species-specific diagnostics and pharmacology.