Could an 'Ark in a Freezer' Bring Back Lost Animals?

'Inside the tanks are the animals'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2016 1:11 PM CST
Could a Frozen Zoo One Day Bring Back Extinct Animals?
In this photo taken Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, rhinos graze in the bush on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa. As teams of poachers stalk rhinos and elephants in the park, wildlife officials are turning to nearby communities to help stop the slaughter.   (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

(Newser) – Inside the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research a few miles outside the city, in an unassuming building that smells like cleaning supplies, is the Frozen Zoo. It's an ark, really—"an ark in a freezer!" as Zach Baron writes in a feature article for GQ—comprising 10,000 samples that represent roughly 1,000 species and sub-species. It's something to hold onto as our planet loses everything from "vital little soldiers like bees" to the "big charismatic mega-fauna like elephants." And what a sweet irony, if a man-made creation like a freezer of vials turns out to restore some of the man-made catastrophes of modern time, from over-hunting to pollution to climate change.

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Some of the animals in the Frozen Zoo still roam the Earth, while others, like the Hawaiian bird po'ouli, are already extinct, and still more are inching ever closer toward extinction. Baron reports that the "ark" is part museum, to catalog the diversity of life on our planet, and part resource for those who need samples for research. But a third reason quietly lives on, too: reanimation, or the possibility therein. The technology already exists, for example, to clone. Technological advances suggest that there is at least the possibility to someday renew lost ecosystems. Some notable scientists call it "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," as Paul Ehrlich told the Washington Post last year. Saving cells isn't, after all, saving species. Yet. (A quarter of all mammals are now at risk of extinction.)

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