Banking Genetic Resources

Chill Out: Frozen Zoo® Aiding Conservation Projects

Frozen Zoo

The Frozen Zoo® at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is a unique resource playing a crucial role in current conservation efforts and will be an indispensable tool for the future. Consisting of viable cell cultures, semen, embryos, oocytes and ova, blood, DNA and tissue specimens, it includes samples from more than 10,000 individuals, representing more than 1,000 species/subspecies.

The Frozen Zoo® serves as an increasingly valuable resource for studies in conservation biology, evolution, and human health, and provides material for the San Diego Zoo Global scientists, curators, and veterinarians, as well as conservation research partners at universities and scientific institutions around the world.

Recently, noteworthy additions of species to the Frozen Zoo® included Audubon’s crested caracara, Roti Island snake-necked turtle, giant horned lizard, Caribbean flamingo, scarlet ibis, white crowned shrike, crested screamer and giant river otter.
Current conservation projects in which the Frozen Zoo® plays an integral role include Barcoding for Species Conservation, Environmental Toxicology and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, Recovery of the California condor, and San Diego Zoo Global’s response to the amphibian extinction crisis: a combined effort for a global problem.

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research provides a state-of-the-art setting for cell culture and karyotyping, DNA isolation, and PCR amplification of nucleic acids. These activities and resulting data have enabled the Genetics Division to conduct numerous conservation studies, including paternity analysis of animals born in social groups of bonobos and orangutans in zoos, and have led to studies of wild populations of mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda.

Frozen Zoo® samples have supported the continued study of the human genome, providing a deeper understanding of its functional elements through comparative studies of the evolution and relatedness of many diverse mammal species. Whole genome sequencing projects have benefited from the Frozen Zoo® resources, including the savanna elephant, two-toed sloth, and western lowland gorilla.

The Frozen Zoo® also has powerful potential as a management tool for future conservation programs through cloning efforts.