30 May, 2024
ELBARN Guidelines for Characterisation of Ark and Rescue Centres (A&RCs)

The primary goal of ELBARN is to network existing “Ark Centres” and to provide a policy framework within which they can provide a professional service for conservation of the breeds (through breed management and emergency provisions).  This service also includes the promotion of the products and services of rare breeds along with raising awareness within the public sphere of the importance of animal genetic diversity. Awareness raising and the inclusion of endangered traditional livestock breeds into agricultural production are important tools for safeguarding their future.

For this purpose the ELBARN Ark and Rescue Centres (A&RCs) need to be clearly defined: what is an Ark and Rescue Centre?  The following guidelines have been prepared to answer this question.  The guidelines were created by the “Work Group 2: Characterisation of Ark and Rescue Centres” at the ELBARN Workshop in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic in February 2008.  The knowledge and experience of the ELBARN project partners have added to this process in order to complete the guidelines. 

photo: Beißwenger

Ark farm Beißwenger in South Germany (Allgäu) - conserving traditional breeds helps to preserve traditional farming cultures.

National Requirements

  • Rare breeds should be identified, described and population size recorded. This information will be stored for public access in the ELBARN database.
  • Furthermore, breeders should be identified and animals registered. National governments should be lobbied to support this work as part of their obligations under Strategic Priority Area 1 of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources.
  • National governments should be included in the process of setting up ELBARN.
  • The different types of A&RCs have to be identified, described, classified and recorded in a standardised manner. Characteristics to be taken into consideration are:
    • type of establishment
    • anitary status
    • capacity to take on (additional) animals
    • animal species kept
    • human capacity
    • period of keeping the animals
  • Need for A&RCS – how many are needed in the country? This depends upon breeds per country or upon the number of animals per breed, etc. this may differ regionally.
  • Contingency planning for animals endangered by emergency scenarios have to be established.  This includes epidemics as well as natural disasters.    National governments should be lobbied to support this action under Strategic Priority Area 3 of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources.
  • All stakeholders need to be identified and involved in the development of such plans, for example, via an advisory–board which reflects a balanced representation of the stakeholders affected: National Coordinators, Breed Organisations, NGOs, Chief Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Local Authorities, Research Institutes.  This type of stakeholder networking is suggested as part of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources.
  • Executives at the National Sanitary Funds (funds for animal health) should be made aware of the issues and be lobbied to dedicate funds principally for keeping animals alive, rather than for compensating farmers for animals that are culled. Quarantine centres should be financed out of these funds.  Further discussion of disease and quarantine needs can be found in the guidelines for rescue and quarantine.

How to locate A&RCs

  • Using Arca-Net and the results from the ELBARN Questionnaire (see: Useful Websites).
  • Contacting national networks and organisations, including veterinary authorities.
  • Contacting the SAVE Network.

General Comments
Quarantine stations should only be considered as a solution of last resort. Disease prevention measures, including vaccination and early warning systems have to be considered and implemented in order to protect animals from diseases and prevent diseases from spreading. Mass culling of animals as a measure of controlling the spreading of contagious diseases (policy of stamping out) should be abolished, especially in the case of rare breeds. This requires preparation of action plans to be discussed with the Veterinary Authorities and lobbying with politicians and administrations on local and European level.  Animal welfare groups, consumer organisations and breeding associations should also be included in this action.

Ideally, Ark and Rescue Centres will be able to perform more than one of the above functions in order to make use of similarities and combine infrastructures.

A&RCs can provide a hub and focus for conservation activities in a country.  A functioning ELBARN requires a number of A&RCs committed to showing animals, providing information and activities and also marketing products.  ELBARN seeks to support farmers in their activities by providing an internet platform through Arca-Net, a source of information about breeds and examples of best practice through the ELBARN website.  A network of established A&RCs can share knowledge and ideas and support the establishment of new A&RCs where none yet exist. 

ELBARN also intends to provide for emergency situations, by creating “rescue” places within A&RCs and, also, by lobbying for changes in regulation and more awareness of the needs rare breeds within Europe.

photo: B. Milerski

Poitou Donkey – large donkey popular due to its shaggy coat, very rare.

Overview, need for action:

  • Each country should have a national committee on animal genetic resources that includes all stakeholders.  This committee should work out national standards for A&RCs, within the context of the Area Action plans and the development of National Action Plans (required for the implementation of the FAO Global Plan of Action).
    • minimum requirements (financial, personnel and capacity)
    • quality standards
    •  controlling body
  • Networking, on regional level, for action plans and collaboration concerning regional cross-border breeds is strongly recommended.
  • A pan-European lobbying group should be established to address the EU about the needs of rare breeds, e.g:
    • registered A&RCs should be afforded a special status
    • protection against slaughtering,
    • medical treatment e.g. vaccination,
    • ease of transportation in case of emergency
    • protected marketing of products from local,autochthonous breeds (label)
  • Networking through out Europe, in favour of endangered breeds, is crucial.

Further Information
Useful Websites:

ELBARN: www.elbarn.net
Arca-Net: www.arca-net.info
SAVE Foundation: www.save-foundation.net
European Farm Animal Information System: http://efabis.tzv.fal.de/


Type of facilities
Type 1: Educational A&RCs
  • public awareness, special information programmes for schools, organisations of farmers, scientists, hobby breeders, consumer groups
  • safeguard the knowledge of breeding rare breeds, including traditional and cultural aspects of animal breeding
  •  have a representative sample of endangered, typical, local farm animals
  •  provide guide-facilities, documentation, well equipped meeting rooms
  •  equipped to offer “learning by doing” programmes such as working with products of traditional farming (e.g. baking, cheese making, weaving)
  • Farm parks, model farms
  • School farms, university research farms
  • City farms
  • Zoo’s and zoological gardens
  • Open air museums
  • Information centres at: national parks, in-situ conservation parks, biosphere reserves

Type of facilities

  • Type 2: Farm A&RCs
  • breeding of endangered farm animals
  • keeping of breeding males
  •  production and sale of (labelled) local breeds products
  • sustainable farming with local breeds
  • farming in combination with nature protection
  • farm tourism (bed and breakfast)
  • professionally run farms (“working farms”)
  • farms should be economically sustainable
  •  majority of animals present on the farms should belong to local endangered breeds
  •  highest animal welfare standards to be applied on the farm
  •  open to the public and provide guided tours on request
  •  Ark farms, organic farms, state farms, prison farms
  •  Grazing projects or other nature conservation projects
  •  Community care farms connected with therapy or sheltered workshops
  •  Farms with Bed and Breakfast facilities

Type of facilities

Type 3: Rescue stations
  •  to save herds of endangered farm animals from slaughtering in case last remaining breeder(s) (have to) stop breeding activity
  •  to save animals in case of political unrest, military conflicts, flooding, etc
  •  facilities that are acquainted with caring for animals and have room, time and personnel available to welcome additional animals
  • ease of transportation regulation to and from rescue stations
  • suitable sanitary status and contingency plans to take unknown animals at short notice and also, if necessary, to provide for isolation of incoming animals and can take care of farm animals during a certain period of time at short notice
  • all type of facilities that are equipped

Type of facilities

Type 4: Quarantine stations
  •  voluntary isolation to save endangered breeds of farm animals in case of outbreak of contagious diseases
  • contract with ELBARN and also relevant governmental body (e.g. Veterinary Authorities) to perform this role.see Guidelines for Rescue in Case of Disease for more details
  • Any registered establishment, willing to take on the role, that fulfils criteria for quarantine

Read more: ELBARN Guidelines for managing small populations of domestic animals


Action 066 ELBARN 2007-2010 received financial support from the European Commission, Directorate- General for Agriculture and Rural Development, under Council Regulation (EC) No 870/2004  
Rare Breeds & Products


Elbarn 2007-2010 Partners