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Chinese Web site tracks animal diversity

FAO has launched a pilot version of its extensive Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) in Chinese. Dr Yanzhang Gong, a Chinese expert seconded from the Government of China under FAO's Partnership Programme, worked on the new site for six months at the organization's headquarters in Rome.

"This is a front-line example of how this can be done," said Keith Hammond, Senior Officer in the Animal Genetic Resources Group, home of DAD-IS. He gives full credit for the new site to Dr Yanzhang, an animal geneticist with excellent computer and English-language skills.

Dr Yanzhang first had to investigate whether it was feasible to translate all modules of DAD-IS into Chinese without entirely redesigning the information and communication system. Deciding it was, he set about translating 1 000 pages of highly technical animal genetic resource management information into Chinese, working in Chinese for Windows.

Dr Yanzhang also wrote out operating and maintenance specifications, suggesting that the system be located at a mirror site in China. Finally, he prepared funding proposals for a programme to cover server maintenance, ongoing information translation and training for DAD-IS users in China.

"Before we got this new Chinese Web site, the Chinese were trying to work in English," said Mr Hammond. "But the danger of losing meaning in highly technical information is high." The Chinese site already has a stable users' group who rely on DAD-IS as a tool to manage data required in the use, development and conservation of animal breeds. The system is also used for training to assist farmers and to promote and coordinate more effective and efficient research. Where online access is a problem, DAD-IS is distributed on CD-ROM.

Chinese livestock breeds make up 10 percent of the world's animal genetic heritage. Many Chinese local breeds have special characteristics of particular value, such as the large litter size of Taihu pigs or the high egg and meat production of Chinese geese. Despite a growing realization of the value of locally adapted breeds, some indigenous breeds are becoming extinct and others are endangered.

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1 June 1999

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