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Saving the world’s genetic wealth: Scientists in Kenya propose plans for first livestock genebank

The worm-resistant red Maasai sheep of East Africa

The indigenous, worm-resistant (and non-wool-producing) red Maasai sheep of East Africa (photo credit: ILRI).

SciDevNet reports on a ‘livestock genebank’ that’s needed to help conserve breeds and populations of farm animals, especially the wealth of diversity remaining in Africa and other developing regions, that are fast being eroded through cross-breeding and importations of exotic stock.

‘Speed read

  • The genetic diversity of livestock is decreasing but there are no genebanks for it
  • Hurdles to setting up a genebank to preserve the diversity include legislation and infrastructure
  • The preliminary project needs more funding, but has the expertise

‘Researchers in Kenya are working towards setting up the world’s first genebank for livestock.

‘The genebank could help protect the biodiversity of threatened breeds and be a useful research tool, says the team, based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘Collecting genetic samples of species into genebanks is not new―it has been done for many years with crops.

‘But the importance of preserving the genetic diversity of livestock has been underestimated until now, says Jimmy Smith, ILRI’s director general.

. . . [L]ivestock biodiversity is being eroded as fast as crop biodiversity — Jimmy Smith

‘ILRI is investigating how best to realise the genebank, including what is needed in terms of technical skills, infrastructure and legislation. . . .

‘At the moment the plans are at a preliminary stage and the project needs more funding, but Smith maintains that Africa has the right technical resources and know-how to accomplish the task. . . .’

Read the whole article on SciDevNet: Kenyan team leads plans for livestock genebank, 27 Jun 2013.

View a photofilm by science journalist Lou Del Bello about this: World’s first livestock gene bank, Jun 2013:

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