Frozen Noah’s Ark Planned to Preserve Endangered Species

( [email protected] ) Aug 02, 2004 04:58 AM EDT

According to the biblical account of Noah, God called Noah to build an ark to carry his family and two of each species of animal to again seed the world with life after God’s judgment was passed. Today, various species of fauna face extinction – not as the result of the Lord’s judgment – but as the result of various environmental factors.

Following the inspiration of Noah’s original ark of salvation, scientists at Oxford University have devised a plan that would freeze and store animal tissues from various endangered species, saving the animal’s genetic code on ice. The project is called the “Frozen Ark,” a repository of genetic material that can be used to recreate the species in the future if necessary.

Professor Bill Holt of the Zoological Society of London explains the initial steps of the project: “What we're going to start with is at least 33 species where we know they're extinct in the wild, but they exist in captivity.” Soon afterwards, DNA from thousands more species are slated to be added to storage within the Frozen Ark.

Animal experts have applauded the efforts of the Oxford team, but they say that their worst fears are also being confirmed. The very need of the project affirms that animal species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate.

One of the animals that may become extinct within the next 30 years is Manitoba’s Burrowing Owl. The owl is nearly extinct already, with only two pairs known to be living in the wild. In the case of the burrowing owl, experts blame pesticides and the demolition of their natural habitat as primary causes of the species’ near-extinction.

"Almost everything we do has environmental or ecological cost to it," Winnipeg Zoo curator Bob Wrigley said.

In any case, the Frozen Ark is not meant to take the place of the species that are quickly disappearing, but to act as a safeguard and a backup in case the species does become extinct. Through future bio-technologies, the respective animal may be created with a complete genetic sample.

However, scientists remind us that rather than relying on the ark, we should take steps to ensure that the real thing will always be around.