Meet Elizabeth Ann, a darling black-footed ferret who is first clone of a native, endangered animal in North America. Elizabeth Ann is the result of biotechnological wizardry pioneered by Revive & Restore, the wildlife conservation organization most famous for their efforts to resurrect the Woolly Mammoth and Passenger Pigeon. From the New York Times:
Her successful cloning is the culmination of a yearslong collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Revive & Restore, the for-profit company ViaGen Pets & Equine, San Diego Zoo Global and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Cloned siblings are on the way, and potential (cloned) mates are already being lined up. If successful, the project could bring needed genetic diversity to the endangered species. And it marks another promising advance in the wider effort to use cloning to retrieve an ever-growing number of species from the brink of extinction.
The black-footed ferret, the first species to be reintroduced to former habitats with the help of artificial insemination, has long been a model species for new conservation technologies. So it is fitting that the ferrets have become the second species to be cloned for this type of genetic rescue. (Elizabeth Ann follows in the footsteps of Kurt the horse.)
"Pinch me," joked Oliver Ryder, the director of conservation genetics at San Diego Zoo Global, over a Zoom call. "The cells of this animal banked in 1988 have become an animal."
Learn more: The Black-Footed Ferret Project (Revive & Restore)