The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the SVF Foundation have launched a new collaboration to strengthen rare and endangered livestock breed conservation through the preservation and study of frozen germplasm (semen and embryos), cell lines and other biomaterials from rare heritage breeds of food and fiber livestock. As part of the project a bio-repository and cryo-preservation laboratory will be constructed at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.
“The ‘Smithsonian & SVF Foundation Biodiversity Project’ is a terrific example of how a public and private partnership can address a formidable world challenge,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “By bringing together the cutting-edge scientific expertise of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute with SVF’s extensive genetic material, we will gather more information on rare and endangered heritage breeds to make a lasting impact on global biodiversity.”
Heritage breeds of livestock carry valuable and irreplaceable traits such as resistance to disease and parasites, heat tolerance, mothering ability and forage utilization. Protecting the genetics and traits of these breeds will help ensure genetic diversity, which could protect the global food chain.
SVF’s project of preserving rare breeds of domestic livestock to help avoid a single breed as a food source started 15 years ago under the direction of its founder Dorrance Hamilton. Since then, SVF has collected and stored 86,000 samples from 26 breeds. The collection is expected to grow to include a total of 140,000 samples from 35 domestic livestock breeds.
The “Smithsonian & SVF Biodiversity Preservation Project” has three components. First, it will continue SVF’s work to collect and store genetic material of rare livestock breeds over the next seven years. Second, the partnership will use the Smithsonian’s expertise in managing endangered populations to preserve these endangered livestock breeds. Third, SCBI scientists will store and curate the material that SVF has collected over the past decade and apply their scientific expertise to produce data demonstrating the importance of genetic diversity in producing healthy offspring. Transfer of the SVF cryo-collection to SCBI will begin this fall. SCBI is working to endow the project and raise funds for future research related to this collection.
Headquartered in Front Royal, Va., SCBI facilitates and promotes veterinary and reproductive research as well as conservation ecology programs based at Front Royal, the National Zoo and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. Its scientists are leaders in applying advanced biomedical approaches, including assisted reproductive technologies and germplasm cryopreservation, for enhancing the demographic and genetic diversity of endangered species.
The SVF Foundation, located in Newport, R.I., was established to help save endangered livestock breeds. The Foundation preserves and manages germplasm (semen, embryos, blood and cells) from rare and endangered breeds of food and fiber livestock, elevating rare-breed conservation through biomaterials cryopreservation. The SVF Foundation will be able to reawaken a breed, with its full genetic diversity, within one generation.