A Snapshot of Endangered Breeds

The danger of extinction threatens domestic livestock and poultry breeds, as well as wildlife.

| March 19, 2010

Pittsboro, North Carolina – The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) recently released its 21st annual Conservation Priority List. The list is an assessment of endangered breed populations for domestic livestock and poultry breeds throughout the United States.

“People know that wild species of birds and mammals are in danger of extinction, but few people realize that more than 180 breeds of domesticated livestock and poultry are threatened with the same fate,” says Marjorie Bender, research and technical programs director for ALBC. “The goal of this list is to take a snapshot of a breed’s population at a given point in time.” The information helps drive conservation priorities for endangered breeds and helps raise public awareness about the need for domestic livestock conservation in the United States.

For 2010, there are 186 breeds of livestock and poultry on the Conservation Priority List. Thirty-three mammalian breeds are listed as critically endangered and 30 poultry breeds. Two new breeds were added to this year’s list: the Dutch Hookbill duck and Steinbecher goose were added to the Study category and warrant further investigation to determine their genetic status.

This year’s most significant changes are to the listing of chickens. ALBC is now able to obtain international population numbers for chicken breeds. Using U.S. and global population numbers, ALBC was able to reassess conservation priorities for these breeds. 

Aside from reporting conservation priorities, the list also reports conservation successes. The American Mammoth Jackstock, a historic breed first developed in the United States by George Washington, has moved from a Critical status to a Threatened status. Ancient White Park cattle have also moved from Critical to Threatened. Both of these moves illustrate the success of conservation efforts to save these breeds. 

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy publishes the Conservation Priority List once a year. The organization gathers census information from breed registries, through direct contact with breeders, and by international collaboration to determine a breed’s status. Guidelines have been established to define the conservation priorities. 

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