Many people are unaware that more than 10,000 endangered species sperm or eggs are being preserved at San Diego Zoo’s “Frozen Zoo.” Scientists have been working diligently for almost 40 years collecting the specimens in hopes that one day they can be used to saving some of the dying species.
The Daily Mail reports that the Frozen Zoo is called anytime an endangered species dies. The researchers must quickly retrieve any remaining sperm or eggs from the animal’s body and return it to their bank for processing. In the video above, you can see that the specimens are frozen with liquid nitrogen and preserved so that they may be used in the future. San Diego Zoo’s specimen bank is the largest gene bank of its kind, and many scientists hope that the painstaking collection will pay off by saving a species that would otherwise be extinct.
The Frozen Zoo has specimens from a northern white rhino that died of cancer last December and is hoping to find a way to utilize them to produce another white rhino, which there are only five left in the world.
“Scientists are racing against the clock to find the best way to utilize the bank’s frozen sperm to produce another one before the northern white goes extinct, which could happen within a decade.”
Though there are great potential uses of the vast gene collections housed in San Diego’s Frozen Zoo, many question how much money should be spent trying to save animals that are so close to extinction. One skeptic is Paul Ehrlich, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.
“Screwing around with science to save a white rhino might be fun and I would like to see it preserved and am all for biodiversity, but it’s so far down the list of things we should be doing first.”
Ehrlich says that the time and energy should be focused on finding a cure to the root cause of the problem instead of a temporary fix.
What do you think? Is the Frozen Zoo worth the effort or should researchers focus efforts solely on solutions that deal with prevention of species becoming endangered in the first place?