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Papers presented at the Expert Consultation on FAO Programmes for the Preservation of Animal Genetic Resources (continue)


B. Gunawan1

1 Research Institute for Animal Production, PO Box 123, Bogor, Indonesia.

1. Introduction

Poultry and ducks are two of the most important commodities among ‘other’ livestock in Indonesia and South-east Asian countries. The native chicken and ducks have been raised for centuries either for meat or egg consumption. To fulfil the increasing demand of poultry and duck meat and eggs, the government has introduced the “Bimas” (“Mass Guidance”) program to promote the production of poultry and duck meat and eggs. To support the success of the program, there has been a tremendous increase of importation of improved breeds of poultry and ducks, either as Great-grand parent stock, Grand parent stock, Parent stock or Final stock. Consequently the development program for native chickens and ducks have been somewhat neglected and forgotten for some time. The government has introduced the intensification program for native chicken and ducks which is called “INTAB” and “INTIK” (native chicken and ducks intensification) only very recently which indicates, after some years of experience, that the farmers who raise the imported breeds of poultry and ducks do not always make a profit.

Most of the farmers with small capital resources are now returning to raise native chickens or ducks. However some breeds of native chicken and duck now have “endangered” status and some of them have even become extinct. The aim of the present paper is to discuss the status, the strategy and efforts to preserve the genetic resources of endangered breeds of native chicken and duck, with particular reference to Indonesia.

2. Chicken and duck population in South-east Asia and Indonesia

The chicken and duck population in Asian countries is shown in Table 1. The population of chickens increased by about 17.1% in Indonesia, 1.8% in Malaysia and 1.3% in Thailand, but decreased in the Philippines by 14.5% and by 35.7% in Singapore and remained steady in Brunei Darussalam.

Table 1: Chicken and duck population in Asian countries ('000 head).

 IndonesiaMalaysiaPhilippinesSingaporeThailandBrunei Darussalam
1983177 16725 43655 000-62 0005 00014 000100078 00014 000--
1984196 37324 69355 000-59 0006 00012 000100078 00019 0002-
1985187 50223 87055 000-52 0005 00010 000100079 00019 0002-
1986201 67727 00256 000-53 0005 0009 000100079 00029 0002-
1987207 55128 278----------

Source: FAO Bulletin of Statistic (1986)

The duck population increased by about 11.2% in Indonesia and 42.8% in Thailand, but remained steady in the Philippnes and Singapore.

However, the population data from Indonesia (Table 2) indicates an increase of improved (imported) chicken numbers of about 37.7% in layer and 44.8% in broiler as compared to only 2.2% in native chickens and 13.5% in native ducks.

Table 2: Poultry population in Indonesia ('000 head).

YearNative chickenLayerDuckBroiler1
1983159 462.528 102.123 781.4-
1984166 814.929 559.324 693.613 261.1
1985155 628.831 784.923 870.513 018.1
1986165 575.738 687.825 008.914 301.4
1987162 990.938 687.827 002.019 195.6

1 Population in one month

Source: Anonymous (1988)

2.1 Constraints

In contrast to developed countries, most animals in developing countries are kept in traditional ways. Each farmer has only 2 to 50 native chickens which get most of their feeds from rubbish and waste near the house, in the garden, along the streets, gutters, and rice fields. They are sometimes fed low quality feeds such as rice bran, broken rice, coconut meal and various other by-products. Thus the native chicken is usually called the “scavenging” bird. Ducks are usually taken to the rice fields in the morning to get their feed during the harvesting season and taken home in the afternoon. Each farmer has about 10 to 50 native ducks.

The farmers keep animals mainly for cash income, savings, or as a hobby, and have little knowledge of animal husbandry due to lack of education and commitment. Less than 20% of the animals are raised for commercial purposes. Fanners have very little capital which makes it difficult to buy feed concentrates.

Livestock generally use only 5% of farm capital and contribute relatively little to gross farm income (Sabrani et al., 1982). The average farm size is about 0.6 Ha in Java and 1.5 Ha in the outer islands, averaging 0.98 Ha for all of Indonesia, and continous to decline with time (Hill, 1973; de Vries, 1972). Even worse, livestock owners are not always land owners. Basuno (1983) found that in a village in West Java up to 40% of livestock owners were landless.

With the contraints mentioned, should farmers totally switch to intensive poultry and duck production to meet the demand for meat and egg consumption? If this system is going to be adopted, are we ready with the high input, high cost technology required to continously supply imported breeds, concentrates and vaccines? We have a good experience and lesson from the poultry industry which has been very popular for the last 10 years. The poultry industry has produced profit and income for the farmers for some years, but now the poultry farmers complain of the very expensive imported ingredients used in concentrates such as maize, soybean meal, and fish meal. Price of poultry products such as broiler meat and eggs has also fluctuated during the year making the business unattractive to farmers. The strategy for improving animal production and increasing the income of the farmers has been discussed by Gunawan (1988b).

3. Breeds of native chicken, ducks and production characteristics

In contrast to imported chickens which produce 250–300 eggs per year for layers and achieve 2 kg body weight at 8 weeks for broilers, native chickens generally produce less than 150 eggs per year and achieve 1 kg at 20 weeks of age. Supraptini and Harimurti (1977) reported that the egg production was 163 eggs per year under intensive management condition. Hardjosworo and Tuttle (1977) reported that the production was between 55–78 eggs per year, whereas Wattimena et al. (1974) reported the production between 30–40 eggs per year under village condition. The average live body weight was 454 g, 1027 g and 1525 g at 10, 20 and 30 weeks, respectively, under village condition. Egg production averaged 72 eggs per year. A very high mortality up to 68.5% was recorded in 5 villages in West Java and occured between 0 to 6 weeks of age (Kingston, 1979). Under intensive management condition, an average body weight of 1718 g was achieved at 20 weeks of age. Similarly Wihandoyo and Mulyadi (1986) reported an increase of body weight and egg production of native chickens and a reduction of mortality to less than 10% under intensive management condition.

The domesticated native chicken (Gallus domesticus) originated from jungle fowl in Southeast Asia (Thomann, 1978). There are some morphological differences between strains within and between regions in Indonesia.

Five distinct groups of native chicken have been identified as the Black Kedu, White Kedu, Pelung, Nunukan and Sayur. The description is as follows. The “Black Kedu” originated from Kedu area in Central Java. They have black colour for feathers, beaks, eyes, shank and toes with black or red single comb. The current population is about 5000 birds. The morphology of “White Kedu” is similar to White Leghorn. The feathers, beak, shank and toes are white with red single comb. The population is nearly extinct. Both Black and White Kedu are good layers.

The native “Pelung” originated from Cianjur, West Java and has been raised as a hobby since 1930. The size is bigger than the Kedu chicken with a very long shank. The combination of colours vary from red, white and black, yellow, black, red and white to black, grey, red and yellow. The price of the cockerel is very high as it could produce a long and beautiful crow. The population is less than 5000 birds.

The “Nunukan” originated from Tarakan Island in East Kalimantan. The size is smaller than the Black Kedu with short shanks and a slow feathering. The feather colour is uniformly brown and red, with yellow beak, skin and shank and red single comb. The population is about 3000 birds.

The “Sayur” is the most cosmopolitan among these four strains and scattered over all regions. The population is the highest among these - the current population could possibly exceed 100 million birds. They have large variation in colour, morphology and production characteristics.

The growth rate and egg production of the 5 distinct groups is shown in Tables 3 and 4. The growth rate of the “Pelung” is the highest, followed by Black Kedu, Sayur, White Kedu and Nunukan. The Black Kedu has the highest egg production, followed by White Kedu, Pelung, Nunukan and Sayur.

Table 3: Body weight of native chicken (Sayur type) and their crosses with imported breeds.

Breeds/ crossbredsAge
Body weight
Body weight gain
Sayur × Sayur110552-
Sayur × Rhode Island Red11073733
Sayur × Sayur212751 
Sayur × White Leghorn21287116
Sayur × Sayur312713-
Sayur × Black Kedu31297511
Sayur × Sayur48560-
Sayur × Broiler48101681

Source: 1. Supraptini, Mansyur and Martojo (1977)

2. Rubino (1976)

3. Hardjosubroto et al. (1977)

4. Mulyadi et al. (1979)

Table 4: Body weight (g) of 5 strains of native chicken

SayurBlack KeduWhite KeduNunukanPelung

Source: Cresswell and Gunawan (1982)

There are various other strains of native chicken such as ayam “Gemara” (Silky feather), “Walik”, “Bekisar” (the cross between Sayur and jungle fowl), “Kate” (dwarf chicken) and “Bungko”, but there are as yet no records of their morphological and production characteristics.

There are some distinct morphological differences between native ducks of different regions such as West Java, Central Java, East Java, Bali, Lombok, North Sumatra and Kalimantan.

A study on the genetic differences between regional strains was carried out at the genome level. The samples were taken from the major breeding areas in Java and Eastern islands. An analysis of protein polymorphisms was performed, 20 loci were screened, of which eight were found to be polymorphic (Tanabe et al., 1984). The dendogram (Figure 1), based on genetic distance between the populations, indicated that West and Central Java strains were genetically similar, but different to the strains in East Java, Bali and the nearby island of Lombok. The Alabio and Medan (North Sumatra) were genetically distinct from the Java ducks. The imported Khaki Campbell was found to be more similar to the West/Central Java strains, which is consistent with the report that such a duck was one of the founders of that breed.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Dendogram showing the genetic distance of local ducks. Source: Gunawan (1988c)

The duck population was estimated to be about 27 million and they contributed about 30% of all eggs consumed in the country in 1978. They have been raised for centuries under traditional systems, and are herded in the rice fields, canals or rivers where they obtain their feeds. Very little information is available on their relative performance under these systems. Some studies reported the egg production of Tegal ducks in the traditional herding system ranged from 121 to 127 eggs (Gunawan and Hetzel, 1983) and ranged from 84 to 151 eggs under home-based herding (Kingston, 1980) and under semi-mobile herding from 98 to 151 eggs per year (Setioko et al., 1985). Recently, the government development programs have started to encourage an effort to increase duck egg production through intensive management. Some earlier work had been done by improving feeds and management system and it was reported that Tegal and Alabio ducks laid 180 and 174 eggs over a ten-month period and over 12 months the Tegal ducks produced 212 eggs (Chavez and Lasmini, 1978). Others reported that averaged egg production to 68 weeks of age for Tegal, Alabio, and Bali ducks were 135, 180 and 179 eggs, respectively (Hetzel, 1984). In South Kalimantan under intensive management systems, Alabio ducks produced at an average 245 eggs per year and ducks are raised not only for egg but also for meat production (Naware and Iberani Ardi, 1979). Meat from native ducks is also now popular in various other parts of Indonesia such as Central, East Java and South Sulawesi. However, there have been no evaluations of Indonesian breeds for meat production under herding management. Under a high level of feeding, Hetzel and Simmon (1983) reported that the Indonesian breeds (Alabio, Tegal and Bali ducks) reached about 1.3 kg and feed conversion of 3.2 at 8 weeks of age and 1.6 kg and 4.7 at 12 weeks.

4. Genetic conservation and improvement

Genetic conservation of endangered breeds faces in Indonesia and South-east Asia the common problems. The countries tend to have a low appreciation of their own native breeds. The general assumption is that exotic breeds are better. As a consequence, indiscriminate crossing and the associated risk of losing some of the high genetic potential of local breeds cannot be avoided. In fact a lot of evidence indicates that the exotic is not always better than the local breeds. Some other factors could accelerate the loss of local genetic resources. These include the lack of information and inventory of the potential value of the native breeds, accumulation of genetic drift, the reduction in fertility due to the problems of mating system and inbreeding depression, natural selection, the loss of genetic variation within and between native breeds, and much selection pressure based only on morphological characteristics, feather colours etc.

Important stages of action which have been started to preserve the native breeds are as follows (Gunawan, 1988a):

  1. Inventory, documentation, geographical distribution based on agro-ecosystem of the native breeds.

  2. Evaluation of the local breeds, imports and their crossbreds.

  3. Conservation and utilization of the local genetic resources based on the criteria such as the rarity of the native breeds, genetic distance between and within breeds, unique biological morphological and physiological characteristics and economic benefit.

  4. Organisation of data bank and news letter.

  5. Training courses on the conservation and utilization of the local genetic resources.

Steps 1,2 and 3 are basically conducted at the Research Institute for Animal Production, universities, and Research Institute for Biological Sciences. Step 4 and 5 are carried out in the Research Institute for Animal Production and the Indonesian National Commission for the Local Genetic Resources. The characteristics of some of the native breeds of chicken and duck were mentioned in earlier. The efforts in conserving and utilizing the genetic resources of native chicken and ducks through genetic selection and crossbreeding are reported below.

A long-term genetic selection within the endangered breed of “Black Kedu” has been carried out over the last 3 years in the Resesarch Institute for Animal Production. The breeding objective is to increase the purity of the Black Kedu by increasing the gene frequency of the black colours and improving egg production. The selection criteria are colour of the beak, eyes, comb, feathers, shanks, toes and anus, egg production and broodiness. The method of genetic selection is the “independent culling level” (ICL). The gene frequency of black colour for each of these traits and egg production has been increased over the last three years and the average broodiness has been reduced from 147 days per year to about 107 days (Gunawan, unpublished).

Evaluation of crossbreeding between strains of native chicken and imported breeds was carried out and results are presented in Table 5.

Table 5: Egg production of strains of native chicken

TraitsSayurBlack KeduWhite KeduNunukanPelung
Age at first egg, day151138170153161
Age at 40 % production, day184166202186193
Peak production, %5575726244
Hen day production %41.358.854.050.032.5
Hen day production, eggs151215197182119
Av. egg weight, g43.644.739.247.540.6
Feed consumption (g/day)8893828593
g feeds/g eggs4.

Source: Cresswell and Gunawan (1982)

A genetic improvement and breeding program of Indonesian layer ducks has been carried out since 1978 at the Research Institute for Animal Production and the scheme is shown in Figure 2. From the results of evaluation of the performance of three Indonesian native breeds such as Alabio, Bali and Tegal and an exotic Khaki Campbell under intensive management system, Alabio, Tegal and Khaki Campbell ducks were selected for further genetic improvement. The genetic selection program has successfully increased egg production and the results are presented in Table 6. The successful utilization of additive genetic variation among individuals within breeds was followed by the utilization of non additive genetic variation through crossbreeding between selected Alabio, Tegal and Khaki Campbell ducks and the results are shown in Table 7. The estimated heritability for egg production traits were also calculated and the results are presented in Table 8. A simple economic analysis is presented in Table 9, taking into account only total feed cost during rearing and laying periods and the main income from the sale of eggs.

The results from Tables 6,7,8 and 9 demonstrate the success of genetic improvement of native ducks through genetic selection and show that crossbreeding between strains of native and imported ducks has produced crossbred ducks with high egg production and high profit margin, e.g. BPT AK (crossbred between selected Alabio and Khaki Campbell) produced 297 eggs per year with feed efficiency 3.0 and the highest profit margin of about Rp. 9999/duck/year compared to other breeds/crossbreds.

The results thus indicated that a proper selection of native breeds of duck and crossbreeding with imported breeds produced a new breed of duck with combination of complementary superior traits originating from both breeds. These results will help to explain and promote the importance of maintaining and conserving the genetic resources of native chicken and ducks, because the imported breed itself does not always perform as well as the native one.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Schematic diagram showing steps of duck breeding program conducted by the Research Institute for Animal Production.

Source: Gunawan (1988c)

Table 6: Heritability estimates for egg production traits

Traits h2±s.e.
Age at first laying 0.21 ± 0.026
Egg production at44 weeks0.52 ± 0.034
 52 weeks0.39 ± 0.035
 68 weeks0.38 ± 0.032
 72 weeks0.44 ± 0.021
Egg weight at44 weeks0.22 ± 0.026
 52 weeks0.24 ± 0.037
 68 weeks-0.03 ± 0.037
 72 weeks0.42 ± 0.032
Per cent egg production at44 weeks0.60 ± 0.027
 52 weeks0.54 ± 0.035
 68 weeks0.28 ± 0.030
 72 weeks0.39 ± 0.214

Source: Gunawan (1989)

Table 7: The survivors egg production to 72 weeks of age in the parental populations and selected populations.

 Survivors egg production to 72 weeks
 Parental populationSelected population
Breedmeans + s.d.means + s.d.
Khaki Campbell230 + 50241 + 49
Alabio200 + 66220 + 64
Tegal212 + 63230 + 60

Source: Gunawan (1987a)

Table 8: Egg production characteristics of Alabio (AA) and Khaki Campbell ducks (KK), crosses between these two breeds (BPT AK and BPT KA), and crosses between Alabio (AA), Tegal (TT) and Khaki Campbell ducks (BPT AT and BPT KAT).

No. of ducks housed105114951097935 
Age at first eggs (days)163a+148b153b150b165*156ab26
Survivors egg production to 72 weeks220a297d274c24lb249b282cd58
% Survivors egg production to 72 weeks64a83d78c71b72b81cd16
Av. egg weight 16–72 weeks (g)62.9ab61.8ab62.8ab57.3d65.0c63.4a3.5
Egg mass 16–72 weeks (kg)13.9a18.5b17.1bc13.8a16.2c18.2bc1.4
Egg specific gravity at 72 weeks1.085a1.085a1.085a1.084a1.085a1.081a0.003
Feed intake (g/day) 16–72 weeks148a141ab151ac135b160c150abc9
Feed intake/egg mass 16–72 weeks4.2a3.0b3.5c3.9d3.8d3.3bc0.3
Cumulative mortality (%) to 72 weeks16.0ab4.1C24.3a20.5a2.8c6.7bc9.6

+ The means (within rows) with different superscripts differ significantly at the 5% level (P<0.05).

Source: Gunawan (1987b).

Table 9: A comparison of profit margin between breeds and new breeds of ducks

Breeds/ crossbredsFeed intake (g/day)Total feed cost (Rp/duck) 0–72 wkEgg returns to 72 weeks (Rp/duck)Ratio return/ total feed costProfit margin to 72 weeks (RP/duck)
0–16 wk16–72 wk
Alabio (AA)10614827 95527 5000.98-455
BPT AK11214127 12637 1251.369 999
BPT KA10715128 47034 2501.205 780
Khaki Campbell (KK)9813525 55824 1000.94-1458
BPT AT11616030 28431 1251.02841
BPT KAT10015028 44830 2001.246 820

Source: Gunawan (1987b).

5. Conclusion

Native chickens and ducks have been kept in traditional ways for centuries in South-east Asia. To fulfil the increasing demand for meat and egg consumption, much attention has been paid to the development program of imported breeds but without proper evaluation. Consequently, the percentage rate of increase of the native population is only between 5 and 30% of the rate of increase of the imported breeds; in fact some native chicken and duck breeds have now reached endangered status. Some efforts have started to protect further losses and to conserve the genetic resources of native breeds of chicken and duck through a genetic improvement program.


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C. Novoa1

1 Instituto Veterinario de Investigaciones Tropicales y de Altura, Apartado 4270, Lima, Peru

1. Introduction

In the pre-Hispanic past in South America there were many camelids, both wild and domestic, occupying extensive geographical areas. The domestic species - Llama (Lama glama, Linnaeus, 1758) and Alpaca (Lama pacos, Linnaeus, 1758) - although largely eliminated from its original habitats, are at present maintained as essential resources efficient at utilising extensive areas of high land (3600 – 5000 m) where it is not possible to grow crops or raise profitably animals of European origin. The conservation of these species is assured because of their importance for the Alto-Andean economy.

Wild species, on the other hand, such as guanaco (Lama guanicoe, Muller, 1776) and Vicuna (Vicuena vicuena (Molina) Miller, 1924), are still endangered despite efforts to conserve them. This paper reviews the situation of these last two species, the history of their near extermination and present and future measures for conservation.

2. Population and distribution

The camelid population in South America is estimated at 7.5 million of which 53% are in Peru, 37% in Bolivia, 8% in Argentina and 2% in Chile (Table 1). Of the total, domesticated species account for 91 % and wild ones for the remaining 9%. There are slightly more llamas than alpacas and more guanacos than vicunas. Over 90% of the alpacas and more than 60% of the vicuñnas of the whole continent are in Peru, 70% of the llamas are in Bolivia, and almost all the guanacos (96%) are in Argentina.

Table 1: Estimated population of South American camelids ('000).


Sources: Novoa (1981), Cardozo (1980), Guzman (1980), Cajal (1981), Brack Egg (1980).

Of the four South American camelid species, the guanaco at present shows the widest range of ecological adaptation, being found in areas covered with grass or dwarf shrubs from sea level up to 4250 m (Franklin, 1982) or 4500 m in the Andes (Raedeke, 1979). Its more northern distribution is at 8°S in the Department of La Libertad, Peru. From there it extends southwards along the mountain range as far as Isla Navarino off Tierra del Fuego, and towards the east across Patagonia - also being found in the Curamalal Mountains and La Ventana in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the north.

Four geographical subspecies of guanaco have been described: Lama guanicoe guanicoe (Muller, 1776) is found south of 35°S in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego; Lama g. huanacus (Molina, 1782) on the western slopes of the Chilean Andes; Lama g. cacsilensis (Lonnburg, 1913) on the high plateaux in the south of Peru, Bolivia and north-east Chile; and Lama g. voglii (Krumbiegel, 1943) north of 32°S on the eastern slopes of the Andes of Argentina. They are all dark brown, with the ventral region white and the face grey.

The distribution of vicuna is limited to the Puna (Andean plateaux at an altitude of 3700–4000 m). The northernmost distribution is at 9°30' in the Department of the Ancash in Peru, and the southernmost in the province of Atacama in Chile.

Two geographical species of vicuna have been described, both of which are cinnamon-coloured. The first, Vicuna vicuna mensalis (Thomas, 1917) is found between 9° and 18°S and the second, Vicugna vicugna vicugna (Molina, 1782) is found between 18° and 24°S; the latter is bigger and does not have a tuft of white hair hanging from its chest like the mensalis subspecies.

3. Past extermination and present conservation

3.1 Vicuñas

The Inca civilisation practised various forms of wildlife conservation and management (Gilmore, 1950). The extermination of the vicuna is a post-Hispanic phenomenon. Simon Bolivar was the first to warn of this danger and in 1825 he promulgated a decree, in the city of Cusco, prohibiting their slaughter, similar provisions were made in Peru in 1920, 1926, 1936 and 1940, which were ineffective in preventing indiscriminate hunting. In 1946 a close season was established in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, but processing and marketing of “imported” vicuna by-products were allowed.

In 1966, Peru established, by Supreme Resolution No. 157-A, the National Vicuna Reserve at Pampa Galeras, 450 km south of Lima. This reserve was urgently needed since the world population of vicuna had fallen by 98% in the previous 20 years. Early in 1950 there was an estimated population of 400 000 in the Andes (Koford, 1975). At the end of the 1970s, due to indiscriminate hunting, the population had been reduced to less than 10 000 in Peru and to less than 2000 in the remaining countries (Grimwood, 1968; Jungius, 1971).

In June 1968, the species was declared by IUCN to be in danger of extinction, and in September 1969 Peru promulgated a new law protecting the vicuna. In 1970, Chile decided to found the Lauca National Park and Bolivia established the Pampa Ulla Ulla Reserve.

In 1969, Peru and Bolivia signed a convention for the strict protection and conservation of the resource, prohibiting all international trade (Cardozo, 1985). Argentina adhered to this convention in 1971 and Chile in 1973, thus embarking on a multi-national collaborative effort. The initial objective of the Pampa Galeros Reserve in Peru was to conserve an endangered species, but it was so successful in increasing the size of the population (Table 2) that it was decided to launch a project for the rational utilisation of the vicuña, expanding the area of protection to zones around the Galeros Reserve. This project was designed to increase the production of marginal lands through re-population and use of vicuñas, particularly in peasant communities. The area of management and protection was extended from 6500 ha in 1967 to 550 000 ha in 1980, with a major increase in the vicuña population (Table 3). Similar results were achieved in the Lauca national Park in Chile (Table 4).

Table 2: Development of the vicuña population in the protected area of Pampa Galeras (6500 ha), 1967–1980.

1971 1356 3323

Source: PEURV Management Division Office, Pampa Galeras, Brack Egg (1979), Brack Egg (1980).

Table 3: Development of the vicuna population in the total area of Pampa Galeras and surrounding areas between 1965 and 1979.

YearsTotal populationIncreaseTotal annual increase (%)
19651 000--
19693 298--
19704 5431 24537.8
19715 8831 34029.5
19727 2811 39823.8
19739 3432 06228.3
197412 8653 52237.7
197517 9165 05139.3
197624 7506 84338.2
197729 4634 71319.0
197838 6439 18031.2
197943 4714 82812.5
Average (%)  29.7

Source: Brack Egg (1980).

Table 4: Development of vicuna population ion the Lauca National Park.

19731 093
19741 253
19752 176
19763 057
19774 080
19786 233
19797 033
19807 990
19819 762
198212 403
198314 617
198416 382

Source: Torres Santibañez (1985)

In 1977, the Ministry of Agriculture of Peru classified the vicuna as a species in a vulnerable situation (Resolution No. 01710–77 AG-DGFF) and in 1978 the Peruvian Government declared the project for the rational utilisation of the vicuna to be a special project of the Ministry of Agriculture - which gave it administrative and economic independence in conducting integrated development, re-population, management and production of vicuna throughout the country.

In Chile the initial area protected by the Lauca National Park was re-classified, one area of 137 883 ha being set aside for conservation and another of 209 131 ha for integral management of the vicuna and its habitat. The National Forestry Corporation has plans to establish units to protect existing populations and to introduce vicunas to other regions. Similar progress is being made in Bolivia and Argentina.

In 1979, on the basis of the above experience, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador decided to enter into a new convention for vicuna conservation and management, which is now in force. At present the vicuña is protected; its status was changed by IUCN in 1981 from an endangered to a vulnerable species (IUCN, 1982).

3.2 Guanacos

In 1977 the guanaco in Peru was declared an endangered species (Ministerial Resolution No. 0170-77-AG-DGFF). There is, however, a small population near the Pampa Galeras Reserve which, due to protection, is now growing in number. Moreover, in 1981, the Calipuy National Reserve was established (Supreme Decree No. 004-81-AA) in Santiago de Chuco in the Department of La Libertad where the largest population of guanacos in Peru - and the northernmost of the continent - is found (Franklin, 1975).

In Chile the guanaco population dwindled steadily bringing it close to the condition of an endangered species (Miller, 1973) until 1975 when CONAF (National Forestry Commission) started a successful programme to protect populations in Tierra del Fuego and in the Torre del Peine National Park (Franklin, 1981). At present one of the large populations on the continent is to be found on Chilean soil in Tierra del Fuego where there are about 12 000 animals.

In Argentina, Raedeke (1979) estimated the original guanaco population at between 30 and 50 million; their habitat had, however, been taken over by more than 45 million sheep and 25 million cows. At the end of the 19th century the population of guanaco had been reduced to a few hundred thousand (Denier de la Tour, 1954). The expansion of sheep and cattle raising and of agriculture in Las Pampas and Patagonia contributed to the reduction. In the early 1950s guanacos continued to decline in numbers having been eliminated in most of northern and southern Argentina (Gilmore, 1950; Denier de la Tour, 1954). The present situation of guanaco in Argentina needs to be clarified; it is assumed that indiscriminate hunting without proper management and conservation cannot continue much longer.

In Bolivia there were probably never very many animals, the present figure being estimated at no more than 200 animals.

4. Future action

4.1 Results obtained and their importance for practical management

The experience of Pampa Galeras and other reserves has yielded the following results which could have a practical application in wild camelid management.

  1. Full protection against clandestine hunting is clearly the best form of management to ensure the conservation of these animals at the present time.

  2. Although there are plenty of domestic animals in the Pampa Galeras, the population of vicunas and guanacos has increased. This indicates that effective protection against hunters has been the key factor in the increase of the population and that its re-establishment is possible despite the use of natural grassland in common with domestic animals.

  3. Vicuñas graze peacefully with alpacas and llamas in the same area. However, sheep are a source of disturbance since they are usually accompanied by shepherds and dogs. Although the vicunas are temporarily frightened away by the presence of shepherds, they come back to their territory as soon as the sheep have withdrawn.

  4. Qualitative observations on the use of grasslands indicated that, compared with the vicuna, llamas are less efficient, alpacas are about the same, and sheep are more efficient.

  5. Although limiting the population of domestic livestock, particularly sheep, is a useful management tool in areas where conservation has high priority, the control of domestic herds on land belonging to peasant communities is not realistic.

  6. When the animal population density increases in protected areas like Galeras, the animals tend to scatter and re-populate neighbouring areas.

  7. One practice that has proved successful is the transfer of vicunas to other areas for purposes of re-population.

4.2 Limitations on future conservation and management programmes

The history of the project for the re-establishment of the vicuna in Peru offers important lessons for the future. Until 1978, the project was in Galeras and its major source of finance was the cooperation agency of the Federal Republic of Germany. From 1979 to 1982, when it was treated as a special project, the PEURV (Special Project for National Utilisation of Vicuñas) took priority in the allocation of Government budgetary resources. This enabled action in Galeras to be strengthened and the work of protection to be started at national level. At the end of 1982, PEURV became part of INFOR (National Forestry and Wildlife Institute) which meant that its resources were taken over by this new organisation and diverted to other purposes. During this period the project lost most of its specialised staff and although it recovered part of its operational capacity in 1983, the situation has not improved due to limited financial resources.

It is now recognised that both PEURV's operational capacity and the Government's financial capacity through the treasury were overestimated. They are still far from attaining the objective of re-populating 15 million ha in the Upper Andes to increase profitability of marginal lands for the benefit of peasant communities and rural enterprises through production of vicuna meat, skins and fibres. The only positive achievement is a big increase in the animal population.

With PEURV, the State was responsible for management, obtaining access to land and later compensating the communities for the use of their pastures. This was done with 11 communities in the core of the Pampa Galeras but compensation was negligible and it was difficult to involve other communities. As a result, the role of villages in protecting the resource was passive and insignificant.

On the basis of this experience, an alternative plan was prepared in 1987 defining two working areas: (a) protection areas, and (b) production areas. In the first, the State protects animals against clandestine hunting, leaving nature to make the necessary adjustments, and in the second, flocks are managed to obtain the best possible economic returns.

To encourage peasant participation, the new plan provides for a gradual shift from control and vigilance toward production. In this case, the objective is not the re-population per se, but ensuring that the peasant community considers the vicuna as one more possibility for production. It is obvious that the change cannot consist merely in supplying vicunas; management technology is also needed and financial assistance to launch community management projects.

All this requires research to elaborate a management model that could be transferred to the communities. Initial financial support is also needed, and the shift in emphasis and the processing and marketing of products under State control must be legally defined.


Brack Egg, A. (1979). La situacion actual de la vicuña en el Peru y alternativas para su manejo. Proyecto Especial Utilization Rational de la Vicuña. Ministerio de Agriculture y Alimentation. Peru. pp. 1–16.

Brack Egg, A. (1980). Situacion actual de la poblecion de la vicuña en Pampa Galeras y zonas aledanas y recomendaciones para su manejo. Proyecto Especial Utilization Racional de la Vicuña. Ministerio de Agriculture y Alimentation. Peru. pp. 1–13.

Cajal (1981). Situacion actual de guanaco en la Republica Argentina. IV Convencion International sobre Camelidos sudamericanos. Punta Arenas, Chile.

Cardozo, G.A. (1980). Poblacion y geografia de la vicuña. En Comunicaciones de la vicuna (A. Cardozo, ed.). Instituto Nacional de Fomento Lanero. Centro de Documentation del Convenio Multinational de Conservation y Manejo de la Vicuña, La Paz, Bolivia. No. 1, pp. 10.

Cardozo, G.A. (1985). Legislation International sobre Camelidos Sudamericanos (A. Cardozo, ed.). Bolivia. Vol. II, p. 155.

Denier de la Tour, G. (1954). The guanaco. Oryx 2: 173–279.

Franklin, W. (1975). Guanacos in Peru. Oryx 3: 191–202.

Franklin, W. (1981). Living with guanacos: Wild camels of South America. National Geographic 160(1): 63–71.

Franklin, W.L. (1982). Biology and relationship to man of the South American Camelids. In Mammalian Biology in South America (M.A. Mares & H.H. Genoways, eds). The Pymatuning Symposia in Ecology, Pittsburgh. pp. 457–489.

Franklin, W. (1983). Contrasting socioecologies of South America's wild camelids: The vicuña and guanaco. In Advances in the Study of Mammalian Behavior. Special Publication No. 7, The American Society of Mammalogists. pp. 573–629.

Gilmore, R. (1950). Fauna and ethnoecology of South American Indians. Bull. 143, Smith Inst. 6: 264–345.

Grimwood, I. (1968). Notes on the distribution and status of some Peruvian mammals. American Comm. for International Wildlife Protection and New York Zool. Soc. Special Publ. 21: 21–86.

Guzman, S.F. (1980). La conservacion y propagacion de la vicuña en Bolivia. En Communicationes de la vicuña (A. Cardozo, ed.). Instituto Nactional de Fomento Linerc. Centra de Documentacion del Convenio Multinacional de Conservacion y Marejo de vicuña. La Paz, Bolivia. No. 2, pp. 15–16.

IUCN (1982). Vicuña. In The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book: Part I. (J. Thornback & M. Jenkins, compilers). Unwin Brothers, Greshan Press, Surrey, UK. pp. 453–460 (516 pp).

Jungius, H. (1971). The vicuña in Bolivia: The status of an endangered species, and recommendations for its conservation. Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde 36: 129–146.

Koford, C.B. (1957). The vicuña and the Puna. Ecol. Manag. 27(3): 153–219.

Miller, S., Rottmann, J. and Taber, R. (1973). Dwindling and endangered ungulates of Chile: Vicugna, Lama, Hippocamelus and Pudu. North American Wildl. Trans. 38: 55–68.

Novoa, C. (1981). La conservacion de especies nativas en America Latina. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 24, pp. 349–363.

Raedeke, K.J. (1979). Population dynamics and socioecology of the guanaco (Lama guanicoe) of Magallenes, Chile. PhD thesis, University of Washington, Seattle. 404 pp.

Torres Santibanez, H. (1985). Conservacion de la vicuña en Chile. Informe Corporacion Nacional Forestal (mimeo).


26 APRIL–5 MAY 1989
Preservation of Animal Genetic Resources

October 1988


1. Very few species of livestock and birds have been domesticated by mankind. Five species of mammals and two species of birds supply most human needs for milk, meat, eggs, animal fibre and draught animal power. In addition there are another ten or so species of domesticated mammals with high specific adaptations, such as the camelids, high-altitude bovines, small rodents and elephants. Within these few species, however, there are many breeds, each having special features and adaptations, which have been developed by thousands of years of domestication in different environments. Since all the breeds within a species can interbreed, there are almost unlimited options for new genetic combinations.

2. The process of human civilization and animal domestication over thousands of years meant that breeds were isolated from each other and, in many cases, developed special adaptations to specific environments; thus change occurred gradually. Today mankind is moving at a much faster rate: livestock, historically limited to a specific location, are now moving across the globe as live animals or as germplasm. Crossbreeding is a major force behind enormous increases in animal production and productivity. However the process has a worrying side effect, namely the overall reduction of genetic variation in a species. Wherever animal development has taken place, attempts to improve the breeds have simultaneously placed some of them at risk.

3. In developing countries programmes to increase animal productivity nearly always result in attempts to introduce exotic germplasm, either as purebreds or to contribute to crossbreeding with the local breeds. The technique of artificial insemination and the ability to freeze semen which can be shipped easily and stored indefinitely have all contributed powerfully to this process of change. The newly developing techniques of embryo transfer appear likely to offer another means for introducing genes from different breeds. Increasingly therefore local indigenous breeds are being diluted and threatened. Mankind now faces the certainty that unique and specially adopted traits of livestock in developing countries will disappear unless preventive measures are taken.

4. Rarely are plans laid for preservation of the local breeds when new breeds are first introduced. If the enterprise is successful, then after the trial period, exotic germplasm soon spreads from the pilot trial to the animal population at large. Silently and unnoticed the numbers of animals of the indigenous type decline and these breeds become threatened, rare and eventually extinct. The process is hidden and occurs without public awareness.

5. This paper therefore addresses the following issues. Indigenous breeds have already been lost and others with unique genetic characteristics are declining numerically and are at risk. Documentation on the status of many breeds is frequently not available. It is especially lacking in developing countries. A policy of awaiting accurate information may be too late to prevent a crisis situation. There are preservation methods suited to developing country conditions that can play a major role in preventing the erosion of genetic diversity.


6. Why should efforts be made to preserve endangered breeds? Some argue that there is no need to be concerned since automatic adjustments will take place. Others feel that the loss of unique genetic material is unacceptable. These arguments have been widely debated and are presented in summary here.

(i) The Case Against Institutionalized Preservation

7. The case against formal mechanisms for preservation in essence states that if a breed is economically useful it will be preserved by market forces. The counter argument that its utility may well be in another time and place is refuted by antipreservationists who maintain that competent breeders and breeding companies will take steps to ensure that all the genetic variation they may need in the future remains available to them. While this argument may have validity with some domestic animal species in developed countries, clearly it does not hold in developing countries where many indigenous breeds are of no interest to anyone other than their current owners, who are crossing with exotic breeds.

8. The other case against preservation is the cost. It is a plausible argument. Modem society is reluctant to fund a very long-term project for which no economic or financial returns can be quantified and where indeed for some preserved breeds there may never be any.

(ii) Justification for Preservation

9. Animal genetic diversity is part of the earth's natural heritage. The loss of a unique breed is an irreplaceable reduction in the natural profusion of life forms. Today human life at the simplest levels depends upon animals for work and clothing and, in the case of some pastoralists, for staple food. At higher levels animals provide some of the most highly valued components of diet. The loss of civilization's cultural heritage is not accepted in other areas of life. Preservation of the genetic diversity of plants and of wild animals for example, although incomplete, is already established. Yet there is an equally clear scientific and economic case for the preservation of the endangered indigenous livestock breeds as an important aspect of human cultural heritage.

• Scientific

10. Breeds with unique physiological or other traits are of great interest. In the past such breeds have provided missing links in the genetic history of a livestock species by the study of blood groups, protein polymorphisms and morphological characteristics. For the future the developing science of molecular engineering will eventually identify which DNA sequences cause the distinctive breed traits. Although the new techniques of genome mapping, transfer of DNA within and between species and the production of viable transgenic animals are far from application, they are the focus of intensive research and will have an impact on animal production and health in future decades. Preservation is also a long-term programme. The preservation now of breeds with unique DNA will undoubtedly contribute in time to the yield from long-term research in molecular engineering. Also biotechnology eventually will contribute new and cheaper methods of preservation, for example by the simple storage of catalogued DNA. It would be a tragic commentary on mankind if, at a time when scientific progress opens up molecular opportunities for man's selection of animals, some unique livestock genetic resources resulting from thousands of years of natural and human selection were lost.

• Economic

11. Genetic variation, both between and within breeds, is the raw material with which the animal breeder works. Therefore any loss of genetic variation will limit man's capacity to respond to changes in economic forces for the exploitation of animal production in tomorrow's world.

12. Livestock improvement depends upon the preferred use of certain breeds or genes over others. Depending upon the genetic improvement method used, the original genes are either diluted or lost, resulting from crossbreeding or breed replacement. Even in situations where no new breeds are introduced, selection and inbreeding inevitably lead eventually to reduced genetic variation within an indigenous breed. History teaches that it is then essential to have the options of choosing from a wide variety of other breeds. In developing countries there are many breeds whose unique genetic qualities are associated with the ability to survive and produce, albeit at a low level, under disease stress and in hostile or highly specific environments. The loss of such breeds means the loss of specific adaptation traits and the DNA sequences which code for this ability.

13. High performance breeds today in many developed countries are derived partially or completely from breeds which, in the economic conditions of earlier centuries, were of little general interest. They survived through economic and physical isolation and were there for the finding when changing market demand and production systems rendered them attractive. This lesson can be forgotten only at the peril of lost flexibility to meet future economic changes in livestock production.

(iii) Summary of the Justification for Preservation

14. There is large genetic variability within the domestic species and there are many breeds. These indigenous stocks are disappearing due to the use of imported stock through breed substitution and crossbreeding. Many indigenous breeds have special adaptive traits, including for example, disease resistance, climatic tolerance, ability to use poor quality feed and to survive with reduced supplies of feed and water. Although difficult to quantify without specific research programmes, it is likely that they also have excellent ability to convert limited feed supply into protein. In the current situation there is a lack of scientific, economic and genetic evaluation among purebred indigenous and exotic breeds, in crosses and in different environments. In the future, due to changing circumstances for livestock production and animal products, the genetic variations which exist in these breeds may be required.

15. The case for preservation is therefore based upon: (i) the economic imperatives for ensuring flexibility in future animal production since market forces alone are not adequate to deal with the problem in developing countries (ii) the scientific value of the genetic material and (iii) human heritage interest. All are valid reasons for establishing preservation programmes. The underlying economic motive is insurance. Since future economic returns cannot be calculated, the question of whether to proceed is highly dependent upon the costs of establishing and operating preservation programmes. The cryogenic storage of semen and embryos offers a method with very low maintenance costs once the samples have been collected. It is a cheap form of insurance to implement immediately without awaiting either full documentation of breeds at risk or their extinction.

16. Having evaluated the different arguments and perspectives, and having received requests from many member countries for assistance, FAO is already committed to the support of preservation of animal genetic resources in developing countries. Clearly it is neither necessary nor desirable to preserve everything. FAO is committed to an approach to identify priorities, areas of need, the development of low cost techniques and to sound scientific methodology with the aim of supporting national governments to cooperate using TCDC principles.


17. Various estimates have been made on the minimum number of live animals required to maintain a breed. Those by Alderson (1981) and Maijala (1982) given below provide two estimates of breed population sizes for five animal species.

SpeciesNo. of Breeding Females

18. These estimated population sizes are for endangered breed populations in developed countries and are at best indicative figures. In developing countries and particularly in harsh environments some additional factors must be considered. Geographic distribution of a breed can lead to clustering of effective breeding sirelines. Thus subdivisions and genetic isolation of nomadic breeding populations can double or treble the effective population size needed to maintain a breed above the endangered threshold size. Also the risk of population loss resulting from disease or adverse climatic conditions such as drought make it clear that breed population sizes much higher than those suggested by Alderson and Maijala may be needed in most developing countries.

19. Consequently much greater caution must be exercised when the ‘survival’ of endangered breeds in developing countries is in question. FAO proposes as a working rule that when breed population size approaches 5 000 breeding females, (total population of about 10 000 animals) the survival risk of the breed should be studied and appropriate actions initiated. These will depend upon the local circumstances of the breed, the management system, the extent of crossbreeding, the rate of decline in numbers and the certainty that the breed has unique qualities. Specific recommendations are then made for each circumstance, based upon established principles.


20. There are two methods available: (i) live animals and (ii) cryogenic storage of germplasm.

(i) Live Animals

21. Until a few decades ago the preservation of rare breeds was largely a hobby of individuals who kept a few animals for their own interest. Additionally some zoological gardens kept a few specimens. These preservation activities were largely limited to breeds of curious appearance. Preservation actions by governments occurred mainly in Eastern European countries where herds and flocks of landrace types of domestic stock were maintained on some state farms. These activities were not systematically planned to ensure that all declining breeds were preserved. Also, apart from the socialist countries, little government interest was involved and virtually no public finance.

22. In recent decades community and government awareness has grown about the serious loss which is likely to occur in the absence of more planned programmes of preservation. An increased amount of activity to preserve live animals of endangered domestic species has occurred in West and East Europe and in Canada and the USA. The active support groups vary from country to country. Occasionally they include governments. Also private organizations have been established simply to promote and operate preservation activities for livestock. Livestock parks of rare breeds are growing in popularity for show to the public. Sometimes government finance is made available to specially designated organizations; elsewhere payments are made to owners for each animal of a recognized endangered breed which they keep and breed regularly. The prolific Taihu sheep in China are an example of this method. In some developed countries, such as the UK, governments have declined to invoke legislation and activities are organized by private organizations which receive donations from the public and which are generally motivated by cultural-historic interests. An early and successful example of this private action is the Rare Breeds Survival Trust formed in the UK in 1973. It is dependent not only on contributions from the community but also upon revenue taken from visitors to the farm parks where endangered and ancient landraces are kept. In the 1950s the US Congress passed a law to ensure the preservation of the Texas Longhorn breed of cattle as part of the country's living heritage. Two herds were established in state parks and ensured that the breed survived when otherwise it would certainly have become extinct. Today there is a revival of interest among commercial ranchers and the breed is no longer endangered.

23. Live animal preservation has several advantages. A breed can gradually respond to changing external influences and performance evaluation is possible. However because of high costs (Table 4) only small populations can be kept and even in the best designed breeding programmes, genetic variability declines. There is also the danger of losing a unique herd due to disease.

24. Smith (1984) has estimated the minimum size of a breeding unit and the number of breeding animals that should be replaced annually to keep inbreeding levels to about 0.2 percent a year. This is shown in Table 1:

Table 1: Minimum number of animals required for conservation by management (Smith, 1984).

Size of breeding unit1026226044447272
No. of breeding animals entering/year105221244187272

25. Brem (1988) considers an inbreeding level of 1 percent per generation tolerable. In order to continue to breed and select successfully on quantitative traits a herd size of about 100 animals is necessary. Table 2 indicates the genetically effective population size and expected increase in inbreeding in a small herd maintained for preservation of a breed. It should be noted that small numbers of males reduce the effective population size drastically.

TABLE 2: Number of animals, effective population size and increase in inbreeding (Brem, 1988).

Number of malesNumber of femalesTotal numbersEffective population size% Increase of inbreeding * per generation

* assuming random mating

(ii) Cryogenic Preservation

26. It is possible now to store a wide variety of living cells for long periods of time. In fact the maximum length of storage time has not yet been experimentally measured as it appears to be indefinite when cells are stored at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196°C). Outstanding progress has been made with sperm cells of most domestic species and the techniques are now routine. Embryos of several mammalian species may now be frozen and subsequently used to produce a normal animal.

27. Most hazards that apply to live animal preservation can be overcome by storage of frozen cells at lower costs. Three techniques are currently available:

  1. Deep-freezing of sperms and oocytes

  2. Deep-freezing of embryos

  3. Deep-freezing of genes

• Sperms and Oocytes

28. The deep-freezing of semen (sperms) is suitable for all domestic animals including poultry, especially chicken and turkey. The techniques of freezing, storing and thawing of semen are well documented and need no further elaboration. However it can be difficult to collect semen from untrained males of indigenous breeds kept under extensive conditions. While all the genetic information of a mammalian breed is contained in semen from a prescribed number of males, a relatively complex breeding system over several generations is needed to regenerate a purebred population from semen alone. Steps also need to be taken to avoid inbreeding in this process. Smith (1984) has estimated that 25 sires per breed are needed to prevent inbreeding when the males are used rotationally on each other's daughters.

29. With cattle, mature oocytes can be frozen. If they are stored in addition to semen, then in vitro fertilization techniques, which are developing rapidly, may be used to produce purebred embryos, which may then be implanted in females of other breeds to recreate the lost breed. It may be useful in certain cases to preserve pieces of ovaries from slaughtered animals.

• Embryos

30. The cryopreservation of mammalian embryos has successfully been used in cows, sheep, goats, and horses. Pig embryos have not yet been successfully frozen. The entire genetic information is stored in one diploid embryo and no complicated backcrossing programmes are necessary. Once the embryos are obtained storage costs are low. However it is still relatively expensive to obtain the embryos. Brem (1988), taking various parameters into account, has estimated the number of frozen embryos needed for preservation in cattle - Table 3:

TABLE 3: Number of embryos to be stored in an embryo bank with the objective of producing 25 breedable heifers after medication for various combinations of survival rates and pregnancy rates (Brem, 1988).

Survival rate of embryos (%)Pregnancy rate (%)

31. The embryo preservation would be even more useful if there is an easy and accurate technique of sexing embryos before freezing.

• Genes

32. In the next decades a new method of preservation may be available. It may then be possible to preserve sequences of catalogued DNA in perpetuity. Storage of uncatalogued DNA is already possible but there are at least two problems which prevent it from becoming the normal method of preservation at present. One is the fact that genome maps are not yet available to identify which sequences of DNA are responsible for specific traits in the live animal; second, the use of stored DNA to recreate an animal with specific traits is not yet possible as DNA reinsertion techniques with animal cells still produce random results. Nevertheless, in planning such a long term project as preserving endangered breeds, the prospects of DNA storage as a method for the future must be taken seriously. DNA also has the advantage that it is a chemical and is not viewed as biological material by quarantine authorities. Thus DNA may be moved freely round the world whereas there are restrictions on the movement of animals and germplasm because of disease risks.

(iii) Comparison of Costs of Different Techniques

33. Besides the technical feasibility costs have to be assessed. Cryogenic banks generally imply both initial investment of storage equipment and relatively high collection costs which are largely compensated by subsequent low annual storage costs. Ollivier and Lauvergne (1988) have summarized the costs - Table 4:

TABLE 4: Relative costs of collection and annual storage for cryogenic banks in cattle and sheep assuming that the annual cost of maintaining a breeding unit = 100
(adapted from Ollivier and Lauvergne, 1988).

Gene bankCosts Cattle Sheep
Frozen semenCollection18483375290
(2500 doses)Annual storage41787
Frozen embryosCollection1500177017501667
(625 embryos)Annual storage10421217

(a) Smith, 1984b: in breeding rate of 0.2 percent per year assumedin breeding unit (e.g. 10 bulls - 26 cows).

(b) Brem, et. al., 1984: breeding unit of 5 bulls and 25 cows.

(c) Parez, 1984: costs of breeding unit assumed as in (a) conditions of developing countries considered for collection and storage.


34. Some developing countries have established animal genetic resource preservation programmes in the last ten years. These are generally large countries with many indigenous breeds, a well developed administrative and scientific infrastructure, trained nationals and laboratory resources. For example, Argentina, Brazil, China and India have a national strategy both for live animal and cryogenic preservation of endangered breeds and good progress is being made. These national efforts have been supported by the activities of FAO and UNEP who, together from 1973 onwards, have developed methodologies, training courses, publications and held expert meetings which focus on the needs and opportunities of developing countries for the improved conservation and management of animal genetic resources.

35. Some examples of these various activities are cited:

(i) Surveys

36. Surveys concentrated first upon special categories of animals which are known to be declining, and which have unique genetic qualities. These surveys include Mediterranean breeds of sheep, prolific tropical sheep and trypanotolerant livestock. Also surveyed were sheep breeds of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey where specially adapted sheep play an important role in the survival of large numbers of people. The special value of traditional dairy cattle breeds in India was also recognized and a review of their potential and declining status was completed.

37. An inventory of special herds was carried out. It listed, supported with essential statistics and brief comments, the status of flocks and herds of rare breeds kept by individuals or public institutions for scientific, cultural, historic or tourist reasons. It included ass, banteng, buffalo, cattle, goat, horse, pig and sheep. It also included free living, unmanaged feral populations formed from domestic animals formerly kept under control. Domestic animals kept in zoological gardens and experimental and selected strains developed in research institutes were also included. FAO and UNEP also surveyed the Przewalski Horse, the wild forerunner of the Asian domestic horse, and designed an action programme for its preservation in Mongolia.

38. In addition to surveys on special categories of animals which were thought to be declining, a different approach has been followed by cataloguing the animal genetic resources of countries whose breeds are little known in the world at large. The People's Republic of China and the USSR have been surveyed in this way. As a consequence not only are the rare and declining breeds identified, but also major local breeds of current commercial value are identified and catalogued.

39. In Latin America, where there are many countries having similar types of Criollo cattle a review of the state of knowlege was carried out. This covered Criollo breeds and at the same time information was gathered on the llama and alpaca, on guinea pig and chinchilla and on sheep and goats of the region.

(ii) Expert Consultations and Meetings

40. These have been held since the mid 1970s to design action programmes and to develop policies and strategies. In 1980 a Joint Technical Consultation was held with UNEP, following which a Joint FAO/UNEP Expert Panel on Animal Genetic Resources was established with 36 members drawn from all regions and representing professional interests in all domestic species. The Terms of Reference of the Expert Panel are given in Annex 1. Meetings of the Expert Panel were held in 1983 (paid by FAO) and 1986 (paid by UNEP). No further meeting is currently planned due to financial constraints.

(iii) Publications

41. The results of the surveys and expert meetings have been published regularly by FAO and where appropriate, jointly with UNEP. A separate publication, started in 1983, is the FAO/UNEP Newsletter - Animal Genetic Resource Information (AGRI) - drawing special attention to preservation activities. The aim has been to publish the newsletter twice per year, subject to available resources. It has a specialist readership of about 1 500 throughout the world.

(iv) Training

42. An FAO/UNEP training course on the preservation of endangered breeds was held in 1983 and included identification of endangered breeds; methods of estimating desired numbers of semen samples, embryos or live animals to ensure genetic diversity; methods for collection, processing, freezing and long-term storage of samples; health regulations; techniques to avoid disease contamination; record keeping systems for storage and preservation centres; maintenance of liquid nitrogen facilities.

(v) Genetic Characterization

43. A large-scale pilot project in several countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America was carried out from 1983–86 to develop a new system of Animal Descriptors. These had never been available before. The pilot trial was able to develop both the Animal Descriptors and the methodology for their use. The output from such a system is an orderly genetic characterization of the breeds and of the environments to which they are adapted. It is suitable for use in a computerized system known as an Animal Genetic Resource Data Bank, where it is valuable for identifying which breeds are endangered and also for documenting standard genetic characterizations for the preserved breeds.

(vi) Promotion of Research

44. FAO and UNEP have promoted an international research project into the genetic structure of the Sahiwal cattle. This breed which originated in Pakistan, has many attractive traits for continued use for milk production under tropical conditions. It is well adapted and has higher milk production than most indigenous dairy cattle breeds in tropical countries. It is therefore an attractive exotic breed to introduce to other developing countries especially for crossbreeding. Unfortunately numbers of Sahiwal have been declining. It is now estimated that only about 17 000 purebred animals remain, principally in India, Kenya and Pakistan. The decline is due to crossbreeding, especially with temperate breeds of dairy cattle. However, purebred animals remain important. The current phase of the study of the genetic structure of the Sahiwal breed is being carried out cooperatively by the national governments, by FAO and with additional trust funds from Sweden. It is expected that at the conclusion, it will be possible to formulate a programme for the increased use of the breed and also to preserve for posterity germplasm with known performance levels under defined conditions.

(vii) Regional Animal Gene Banks

45. The most recent activity is the formulation of a programme to establish Regional Animal Gene Banks in Latin America, Africa and Asia for the cryogenic storage of semen and embryos of endangered breeds in the countries within each region. Two centres are located in each region for storing split samples of each breed to safeguard against accidental loss. The locations of the centres in the different regions and the next phase of the programme including training of national staff in the methodology of cryopreservation and documentation are given in Annex 2.

(viii) Some Concurrent Strategies in Developed Countries

46. The European Association of Animal Production (EAAP) undertook a survey in 1984 of 22 countries in Europe to identify which breeds are endangered and which countries have programmes for preservation (Maijala et al., 1984). The results show that in Europe there are nearly 1 300 indigenous breeds of cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and goats. Of these 81 cattle, 67 sheep, 51 horse, 31 pig and 12 goat breeds are considered to be endangered. A comparable exercise for a developing region, namely Asia and the Pacific was planned by a similar professional society (Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania - SABRAO). However, it was not possible to carry it out successfully due to the meagre national records and the absence of sufficiently well developed infrastructures needed for surveys.

47. Preservation activities in developed countries also highlight the need for central documentation facilities. The EAAP has established an Animal Genetic Resource Data Bank to store information on the size and changes of animal populations and also on the genetic characterizations of breeds. FAO arranged in 1988 with EAAP for the European Animal Data Bank to include similar information from developing countries. For this purpose the Animal Descriptors developed by FAO and UNEP and published in 1986 for five species of mammals and seven avian species are being used.

48. The US National Academy of Sciences is currently engaged in a comprehensive study of the need to preserve and manage genetic resources globally as well as in the USA. FAO is actively participating in the study group on animal genetic resources.


49. There are many breeds of indigenous livestock which are declining. The rate of decline, the current numbers of animals, the distribution and likely date to reach extinction are usually not documented. Some breeds have already been lost and many are now threatened. The trend is accelerating.

50. The genetic characteristics of endangered breeds are rarely documented. Although production may be relatively poor, resulting in declining economic interest, breeds often have unique adaptive qualities which are also not documented.

51. Attempts to document the status of breeds by mail surveys have generally not been successful. It is most difficult to obtain accurate information in many countries and sub-regions where breeds are most at risk.

52. If efforts are focussed upon accurate documentation before preservation starts, then many breeds will be lost. Priority must be given to preservation which can be accompanied by limited documentation. The cost of preserving some breeds which may not be endangered is part of the price of ensuring that truly endangered breeds are not totally lost. It is a relatively small price.

53. National boundaries are poor indicators of breed distribution. Breeds frequently exist in several countries, although known by different names. A regional approach to preservation will be, for a number of reasons, the most economic.

54. Cryogenic storage should be the preferred method. Regional Animal Gene Banks with several centres holding split samples are ideal from the point of view of low cost and long term security.

55. Regional Animal Gene Banks are well placed to serve the interests of the smaller countries, whose national resources are most limited and for which national animal gene banks would be extravagent.

56. Regional Animal Gene Banks, organized on TCDC principles, would provide uniform methodology for the identification and evaluation of breeds to be preserved, the collection, freezing, shipping and storage of germplasm and the long term care, documentation and security of the samples.

57. Legal protocols are needed to ensure that the samples in a Regional Animal Gene Bank remain in the ownership of the country of origin.

58. Animal Health protocols are needed to ensure that animal diseases are not spread via Regional Animal Gene Banks and that accurate comprehensive records are established of the health status of the animals from which the samples are taken.

59. Live animal preservation programmes should be encouraged on a national basis, wherever possible, by drawing international attention to the declining and endangered breeds, seeking financial resources and emphasizing the opportunity for individuals to contribute to preservation. Such in situ preservation is particularly important for poultry where the costs of keeping individual live birds is modest.


60. Establishment of a World Watch system on indigenous livestock breeds to identify need and to promote action when valuable or unique breeds are approaching risk. This system is to consist of a census information collection programme for developing countries with a central documentation centre serving both developing and developed countries. Data on the status of indigenous breeds in developing countries is to be regularly collected in prescribed format and trends monitored. This is to include the actual or estimated numbers of animals, the effective breeding population size, geographic distribution and indications of the changes predicted for the size of the breed based on recent trends. Critical changes are to be reported. National governments will be alerted to the need either for more detailed study or for preservation actions. Technical advice and facilities are to be available for cryogenic storage at Regional Animal Gene Banks. Studies are to be suggested on the status of indigenous breeds not currently at risk, with the aim of avoiding an emergency situation later.

61. In association with the World Watch system there is to be an up-to-date list of breeds and populations of indigenous livestock in developing countries, with a genetic characterization of each breed. An advantage of a global animal data bank for genetic characterizations is that breeds having the same genetic value but which are known by different names, are then assessed together for preservation purposes.

62. The recently established Animal Genetic Resources Data Bank set up by the European Association of Animal Production in the Federal Republic of Germany, with which FAO closely cooperates, is to be strengthened so that it will become a global information centre for international use, both for the improved use and for the preservation of indigenous breeds in the developing regions of the world.

63. Rapid completion of the programme for the establishment of Regional Animal Gene Banks for Africa, Asia and Latin America and early establishment of a comparable Regional Animal Gene Bank for the Near East region.

64. Priority in the use of the Regional Animal Gene Bank to be given to the storage of semen, while embryos should also be collected as additional germplasm wherever possible.

65. The manual for the operation of the Regional Animal Gene Banks, already prepared by FAO, is to be published and made available to all member countries.

66. Special attention is to be given to technical support for developing countries wishing to establish live animal herds for the preservation of endangered breeds of livestock. A manual is to be prepared for this purpose.

67. The possibilities of private individuals, villages and other communities or groups being able to participate and contribute to in situ preservation activities by keeping animals and birds is to be explored and encouraged. Public and private financial resources for the support of this type of activity are to be encouraged and a mechanism established to capture such contributions and channel them into live animal preservation programmes.

68. Training programmes are to be organized regionally or globally as appropriate for training national scientists and administrators in the operation, management and participation of Regional Animal Gene Banks and national animal herds and flocks for preservation purposes.

69. Studies into the genetic relationships of breeds of the same species are to be encouraged and research sponsored with the aim of measuring genetic distance (differences) between indigenous breeds. This would provide more information on which traits in a breed are unique and therefore worthy of preservation and those traits which are also found in other not endangered breeds.

70. Close technical contact is to be maintained with those rapidly developing fields of biotechnology which are closely related to preservation techniques, with the aim of ensuring that animal tissues stored in Regional Animal Gene Banks are suited to likely future developments.

71. When supporting national and regional programmes that involve crossbreeding the indigenous with exotic breeds, FAO is to provide technical advice to governments to avoid the depletion of indigenous stock below critical levels


72. Recognizing the ecological, cultural and possible future economic value of endangered domestic breeds and the need for active national involvement to stimulate external assistance, governments to give higher priority than hitherto to the preservation of endangered breeds by making financial provisions in their livestock plans and programmes.

73. Formulate a practical programme of identification and data collection for the characterization and evaluation of indigenous breeds, participate in the Global Animal Genetic Resources Data Bank, and rapidly implement a programme of cryopreservation of semen and embryos of endangered breeds by taking part in the Regional Animal Gene Bank programme.

74. Realizing the danger to indigenous animal genetic resources by programmes that involve introduction of exotic germ plasm, continuously monitor genetic change in the indigenous breeds included in such programmes and participate in the proposed FAO World Watch system. Maintenance of purebred herds of indigenous breeds is to be an integral part of programmes involving crossbreeding. It may be feasible under certain circumstances, to designate small areas under national control which are unsuited to intensive animal production, where the policy will be never to replace or crossbreed the locally adapted indigenous animals.

75. Governments to be encouraged and assisted to make available bulls of local indigenous breeds in national AI centers.

76. Create public awareness of the genetic, scientific and cultural value of endangered breeds and actively support the creation of breed societies, and registration and genetic characterization of animals.

77. Encourage universities, research organizations and other technically-oriented government institutes to create and maintain live animal units of endangered breeds.

78. Stimulate public interest and mobilize support for conservation programmes by publicising endangered breeds at agricultural shows and exhibitions, and establishing live animal units in zoos and parks.

79. All interested organizations, institutes and individuals are to be encouraged to provide financial support for the safeguarding of animal genetic resources.


Alderson, L., 1981. The Conservation of Animal Genetic Resources in the United Kingdom. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper, No. 24, 53–76, FAO, Rome.

Brem, G., 1988. Ex situ Kryokonservierung von Genom und Genen gefährdeter Rinderrassen (in press).

Brem, G., Graf, F. and Kräusslich, 1984. Genetic and economic differences among gene conservation in farm animals. Livestock Production Science 11: 65–68.

Maijala, K., 1982. Preliminary report of the working party on animal genetic resources in Europe. In conservation of animal genetic resources, Session 1. Commission on Animal Genetics, EAAP, G.1.2. Leningrad.

Maijala, K., Cherekaev, A.V., Devillard, J.M., Reklewski, Z., Rognoni, G., Simon, D.L. and Steane, D.E., 1984. Conservation of Animal Genetic Resources in Europe. Final Report of an EAAP Working Party. Livestock Production Science, 11:3–22.

Ollivier L. and Lauvergne, J.J., 1988. Paper presented to the VI World Conference on Animal Production, Helsinki.

Parez. M., 1984. Harvesting, processing, storage and subsequent use of animal cells in developing countries. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 44/2, FAO, Rome.

Smith, C, 1984. Estimated costs of genetic conservation in farm animals. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 44/1, 21–30.

Smith, C, 1984b. Rates of genetic change in farm livestock. Research and Development in Agriculture 1.79–85.


I. Background and Justification

In the 1930s and 40s the scientific basis for the genetic selection of animals was worked out in institutions in Europe and the United States of America. The application of these findings to practical animal breeding improvement programmes has made possible an unprecedented rate of increase in the production of food and fibre per animal. A few high performance breeds have emerged which are gradually displacing the local breeds in temperate regions. As a result there is growing concern that that the latter may disappear altogether unless special efforts are made to conserve them.

The developing countries are likewise increasingly concerned about their livestock resources, especially after the many large scale introductions of high-yielding breeds from the temperate zones which often caused a decline in the numbers of local livestock types. The latter have, through natural and man-selection, developed characteristics which make them well adapted to the often harsh environmental conditions under which livestock have to live and produce in these areas. This valuable genetic material needs to be maintained and improved as the basis for national livestock breeding programmes and policies.

The problems facing the world's animal genetic resources were identified by a high level FAO/ UNEP Technical Consultation held in 1980 as being principally of three kinds. The first is a decrease in genetic variability within breeds; this is mainly a problem of the high-yielding breeds maintained in temperate zones and employed in intensive production systems. The second is the rapid disappearance of indigenous breeds and strains of domestic animals through the indiscriminate introduction of exotic breeds. The third concerns the special problem of hot, humid climates and other harsh environments common to the developing countries. Only in restricted areas within these environments is it possible to improve animal health protection measures and feeding and management practices to levels that would allow high-yielding animals from the temperate zones to be used. In these circumstances the need is to design and implement appropriate selective breeding programmes based on existing populations of animals adapted to harsh environments.

The emerging awareness of the need for urgent action to conserve and develop the world's animal genetic resources has resulted in a number of limited and mostly uncoordinated efforts in this direction. Regional agricultural and/or animal husbandry organizations in Africa (IBAR of OAU), Europe (EAAP), Asia and the Pacific (SABRAO) and Latin America (ALPA) have set up committees on animal genetic resources and initiated studies on their management. However, there is an obvious need for the coordination of these activities as well as for the continuous exchange of information on experiences, achievements and methodologies for the efficient management and conservation of animal genetic resources for future needs. The future potential use of a specific animal genetic resource may not necessarily be confined to the country or area where it is at present threatened. Instead, it may well prove its usefulness in some other part of the world. This fact underlines the need for a strong involvement of international bodies like FAO and UNEP.

In recent years techniques for the recovery of embryos of animals and their long term conservation at supra-low temperatures have been developed and the scientific research in this field is at present in a very intensive phase of development. In consequence, new knowledge is being continuously generated on animal genetic resources conservation invitro, for both short and longer term periods. At present, of course, the development of the embryo transfer/storage techniques is geared mainly toward its immediate use for commercial purposes. But the potential for its use in connection with the conservation of animal genetic resources is great. This would require its continuous study at the global level. There is already information available that embryo banks are being established in some of the industralized countries.

In the light of the above considerations, an FAO/UNEP Panel of Experts on Animal Genetic Resources Conservation and Management was established in 1983, consistent with the recommendations of the FAO/UNEP Technical Consultation (1980) that FAO and UNEP establish an appropriate coordinating mechanism for the conservation and management of the world's farm animal genetic resources at national, regional and international levels.

II. Objectives and fields of activity

The objectives of the Panel are to:

-   Review periodically ongoing work on animal genetic resources conservation and management in the different parts of the world and delineate future work programmes on a priority basis.

-   Identify the principal problems hampering the exploitation and improvement of animal genetic resources at national and regional levels.

-   Determine how these problems may be solved, what action programmes and projects may be developed in given situations, and how existing national and regional organizations may be strengthened for this purpose.

-   Formulate ways and means of stimulating regional and global cooperation in programmes for promoting animal genetic resources development with special emphasis on mutual assistance among national and regional institutions.

-   Advise the Director-General of FAO and the Executive Director of UNEP on critical issues relating to the conservation and management of animal genetic resources.

The Panel activities cover the following fields:

  1. Genetic resources conservation and management activities at global, regional and subregional levels.

  2. The design and implementation of selective breeding programmes for animal populations in harsh environments.

  3. The establishment and operation of data banks on animal genetic resources.

  4. The development and application of an in situ animal genetic resources conservation methodology.

  5. Public relations and collection and dissemination of information programmes for animal genetic resources conservation in developing countries.

  6. The development and application of an in vitro conservation methodology of animal genetic material, including disease control aspects.

  7. The development and maintenance of inventories of animal genetic resources and of a global register of such resources.


(i) FAO started the organization of Regional Animal Gene Banks for the cryogenic storage of semen and embryos in 1987 in the Africa, Asia and Pacific, and Latin America and Caribbean regions. It is hoped to start a similar Regional Gene Bank in the Near East Region in 1989.

(ii) Each Regional Animal Gene Bank is organized as a cooperative programme between the countries which wish to participate by storing semen and/or embryos of their endangered breeds. In each region two centres have been identified where national facilities can easily be expanded to serve the needs of the region. Two centres are needed in each region to hold split samples, thus providing security against accidental loss. The countries in each region are: Ethiopia and Senegal (Africa), People's Republic of China and India (Asia and the Pacific), Argentina, Brazil and Mexico (Latin America and the Caribbean). The separate centre is needed in Mexico to serve the needs of Central America and the Caribbean, which are an animal disease-free zone separate from South America.

(iii) The first phase of the programme was completed in 1988 and consisted of a desk study by the centres in each region covering all topics, including standards for the handling of samples, animal health aspects, recording system for operation of the centre, documentation of genetic characteristics of breeds, estimated operating costs and needed training programmes for nationals of member countries. The output from these studies have been incorporated into a new Operating Manual for Regional Animal Gene Banks.

(iv) The next phase of the programme to permit immediate action during 1988 based upon cooperation between countries, is the provision of TCP projects. These are expected to provide training in necessary methods for identifying endangered breeds, sampling techniques, documentation and collection, processing and shipping of samples, and also to provide supplementary equipment and expert advice.

(v) The operation of the Regional Animal Gene Banks during the following three years during which most of the currently endangered breeds will be collected, is expected to be supported financially by trust funds. The permanent long-term maintenance of the Regional Animal Gene Banks will need simply regular supplies of liquid nitrogen and an up-to-date recording system. It is expected that the costs of operating these will be provided by the cooperating countries in the region.

(vi) The contributions of each participating country to Regional Animal Gene Banks will include necessary equipment and staff for the identification of endangered breeds and collection and shipment of semen and embryos to the regional centres. The contributions of the countries operating the regional centres will be the needed laboratories for handling the samples, physical facilities for housing the storage containers and provision of staff and office facilities for recording systems. It is expected that the special equipment specifically needed for operating an animal gene bank, such as liquid nitrogen plant and storage and shipping containers, will be provided under the TCP projects.

(vii) No payments for the value of the samples or the animals from which they are derived will be made to the countries sending samples to the Regional Animal Gene Bank. Ownership of the samples will remain with the country of origin. It is expected that protocols will be worked out in each region by representatives of the participating countries for safeguards to prevent valuable germplasm being released from the centres for purposes inconsistent with the agreed aims for preserving unique genetic material.

(viii) The commitments of FAO are the initial organization which was carried out using Regular Programme Funds in 1986–87, followed by seed money from TCP for the needed training, expert advice and essential equipment in 1988.

(ix) The estimated budget for the establishment of each regional animal gene bank centre is as follows:

Equipment (once only)150 000
Operation during establishment (per annum)20 000
Training/Expert Advice (depending upon the number of countries (once only)
75–150 000
Long-term operation (per annum)5000

(x) Blood samples to be used for blood typing and for DNA extraction and permanent storage, will be taken from each animal whose semen or embryos are stored.

(xi) The contents of the recently produced FAO Manual on the Operation of Regional Animal Gene Banks follow.



 1.1Decline in genetic diversity
 1.2Conservation strategies
 1.3Methods of conservation
 1.3.1Live animals
 1.3.2Ex-situ storage
 1.4Storage of animal cells and gene transfer
 2.1General considerations
 2.2Location of a regional animal gene bank
 2.3Security against loss or damage
 2.4Role of participating nations
 2.5Role of regional banks
 3.1Selection of breeds/populations
 3.1.1Declining numbers
 3.1.2Performance, adaptability and unique traits
 3.1.3Genetic diversity
 3.1.4Feral animals
 3.2Sample size
 3.2.3Number of samples per sire and parental pair
 4.1.1Disease-free semen
 4.1.2Health tests
 4.1.3Special requirements for animals originating from private herds
 4.2.1Health status of donor
 4.2.2.Embryo collection unit
 4.2.3Health status of embryos
 4.2.4Certificate of health
 5.1.2Semen quality
 5.2.1Donor animals
 5.2.3Fertilization, recovery, evaluation, freezing
 5.4Samples for genetic studies
 5.4.1Collection and storage of blood samples
 6.1Receipt and storage
 6.2Release of material
 6.3Checks and security
 Annex laAnimal Health Certificate for Semen
 Annex lbAnimal Health Certificate for Embryos
 Annex 2Description of materials sent to regional animal gene bank
 Annex 3Description of materials released by regional animal gene bank
 Annex 4Monthly record book at regional animal gene bank
 Annex 5Annual summary by regional animal gene bank
 Annex 6Description of livestock populations stored at regional animal gene bank

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