Milestone for Whitchurch threatened species freezing scheme

Tullis Matson
Tullis Matson founded the charity three years ago and works with a large team of trustees and committee members

A charity that has been freezing cells from some of the world's most endangered animals has reached a milestone of its 200th species.

Tullis Matson set up Nature's SAFE in Whitchurch, Shropshire, three years ago and freezes samples in liquid nitrogen.

He said some of the animals the team had stored were on the "brink of extinction".

Mr Matson hoped in the future animals could be revived "just by thawing them out".

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the planet could be losing at least one species every hour and Mr Matson said it was "absolutely vital to be able to do this work".

Nature's SAFE's collection includes samples ranging from African elephants to the endangered mountain chicken frog.

The charity's work relied on donations and since getting a grant of £16,000 from the Postcode Lottery, it is working to preserve some British species.

"The UK is one of the most depleted nature resources in the world and we have to do our bit to preserve them," Mr Matson said.

Recent additions to the collection included red squirrels and the wildcat of Scotland, which was the 200th animal to be preserved.

Cryogenic store at Nature's SAFE
The samples are frozen in nitrogen

Mr Matson described the storage room as a "bit like a nuclear bunker" with the samples stored at temperatures of -196C (-321F), at which point all the natural chemical processes in cells stop.

"When you store something down at that temperature, it sort of suspends it in animation," he said.

"So tomorrow or in 10 years or in 1,000 years time we can bring that little sample back to life, amazingly just by thawing it out.

"It's quite amazing what we can do now with science and technology."

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