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A Plan To Save Dwindling Species

Siberian cattle that tolerate temperatures of minus 60 degrees Celsius (-140 F), Mozambique pigs resistant to African Swine Fever and Kazakhstan dromedary capable of producing nourishing milk on little water or food: these are a few of about 1,700 domestic animal species a U.N. agency hopes to save from extinction through a new computer program.
News About Animals

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Agency launched Monday an interactive database on the Internet - also available on CD-ROM - known as Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS). The program is intended to help farmers and scientists around the world exchange views on how to safeguard dwindling species or discover where the genes of animals resistant to a particular disease or adapted to a particular climate could be used.

Keith Hammond, senior officer in the FAO's Animal Genetic Resources, said saving the animals was "cheap insurance," against a future change in what "humans need or want." He said scientific breakthroughs about nutritional needs, the outbreak of new diseases or changes in climate could all prompt the need for animal species currently at risk of extinction.

"If we did nothing for the next 30 years, most (of the 1,700 species) would be lost," Hammond said. About 30 percent of the world's domestic animal breeds risk extinction, he said, and they are being lost at about one species per week.

According to the FAO, the livelihood of about 2 billion people depends at least partly on domestic animals.

Hammond blamed the loss in animal genetic diversity in part on the "indiscriminate import and use" of breeds that do well in developed countries but that require large supplies of expensive feed and need constant health checks. He said farmers tended to favor these breeds and neglect native species, leaving them to eventually die out.

The project's Internet site is found at

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