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This 'Frozen Zoo' offers hope for endangered species

Words by Tess Becker

Pollution, human expansion, and climate change have drastically changed how we as people interact with the natural world.

Feeling the most impact across the globe are our flora and fauna, seeing astronomical levels of extinction or near extinction every day. Estimates vary, but we’re losing up to 150 species of plants and animals every single day to things like deforestation. 

San Diego’s Frozen Zoo is trying to change the narrative.

What is a frozen zoo?

The Frozen Zoo is a small part of the Safari Park, which is part of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. It’s a lab where researchers preserve the cells of endangered animals. 

To date, they have preserved the living cells of 12,500 different species. They add a few dozen more every year.

“We are trying to conserve the cells of at least six female and six male specimens of each species,” Marlys Houck, the curator of the Frozen Zoo says, “and a little more of species that reproduce slowly like the rhinos. This is tedious, complex work.”

The goal of the Frozen Zoo is to safeguard the future of species that may be on the brink or at risk of dying out within a generation. Some animal cells at the Frozen Zoo now only exist as frozen cells in the cryogenic tanks, like the Po’ouli bird or Black-faced Honeycreeper.

The potential exists at the Frozen Zoo to protect innumerable species in the future.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs