‘Frozen Zoo’ to save Endangered Species

Zoo Atlanta, Sumatran tiger Jalal. Skin samples taken for 'Frozen Zoo' project.

Zoo Atlanta, Sumatran tiger Jalal. Skin samples taken for ‘Frozen Zoo’ project.

‘Frozen Zoo’ to save Endangered Species

The University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center at West Laboratory has announced that it has begun to collect genetic material from endangered species in a sort of “frozen zoo” in ordered to save endangered species. Skin samples were extracted from a Sumatran tiger who was euthanized at Zoo Atlanta in 2010 and a cloud leopard in 2013. The current focus is on endangered animals in zoos, in particular big cats, though the team would like to also collect panther skin samples from Florida.  The project has an eye to expand it’s scope once it is further underway.

Franklin West (left) and Steven Stice (right).

Franklin West (left) and Steven Stice (right).

The ‘Frozen Zoo’ project came from the mind of the Center’s Director, Steven Stice, and associate professor Franklin West. The process developed by Stice and West turns skin samples into stem cells and those stem cells can be turned into sperm or eggs. The sperm or eggs can then be introduced into breeding programs. Testing was done using pig skin samples and was successful in creating pig sperm.

“Essentially the genetics are immortal,” West said. “You could go in 20, 30, 200 years theoretically, you could thaw these stem cells out, and turn them into sperm and eggs. And, it won’t take much space either, he said as he pulls out a small container. “It would take two boxes to essentially store a whole population.”

The Regenerative Bio-science Center’s marketing and development coordinator, Charlene Betourney, decided to use crowdfunding rather than applying for a grant to fund the ‘frozen zoo’ project. By using GeorgiaFunder, the people can easily help by donating to the project’s wanted funding of $25,000.  You can stay up-to-date with the project through West Laboratory on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you are a fan of Ancient Aliens (tv show) this project may sound similar to the theory behind Noah’s Ark as being a holding facility for animal genetics rather than being a large ship filled with animals.  Could this be the beginning steps of a new Ark?

Let us know what you think of the project and if you plan on donating.

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