Animal breeds become extinct for many reasons, including replacement by exotic breeds, the loss of grazing opportunities, the absence of market demand and lack of competitiveness with improved breeds, the disappearance of indigenous knowledge and institutions, and conflicts and catastrophes. A breed survey can help identify and document breeds that are hitherto unrecognized by outsiders. The best way of conserving local breeds is by creating an enabling environment for the breeding communities. Strategies include increasing community awareness, creating the right policy framework, organization and capacity-building for breeders, creating a market and marketing facilities for products of the breed, and breed improvement through selection.
Although less talked about, the loss of biodiversity in domestic animals is even more acute than in crops, because the gene pool is already much smaller and because fewer wild relatives remain. Livestock conservation programmes have not been a priority and local breeds are continuing to disappear at an alarming rate. This neglect poses a serious threat to the global food supply and the millions of people who depend on domestic animals for their livelihoods.
Two breeds vanish every week, threatening herders and smallholders in marginal areas and the food security of us all. Why are we losing animal diversity? How to conserve diversity? What action is needed?