Scientists Preserve DNA of Endangered Species

A consortium of U.K. research centers and scientists has launched an ambitious project to preserve the DNA of thousands of endangered species. The Frozen Ark Project will start with creatures expected to disappear within five years — like North Africa’s scimitar-horned oryx and Mexico’s Socorro dove — and then move on to animals farther down the World Conservation Union’s red list of threatened species. The project is not meant as a conservation effort, but rather “a backup plan for when all best conservation efforts have failed,” said Bryan Clarke, a population geneticist at Nottingham University. The researchers expect that the samples will be used eventually to clone species that have disappeared. Seems a little creepy, yes, but as Phil Rainbow of London’s Natural History Museum says, “Natural catastrophes apart, the current rate of animal loss is the greatest in the history of the earth and the fate of animal species is desperate.”