Black-footed ferrets were in danger of going completely extinct in the 1980s. Scientists collected the few ferrets they could find in Wyoming for a breeding program, which has been successful, but the species is still endangered and the gene pool is rather thin. In fact, all the black-footed ferrets in the US are descended from just seven individuals. But Elizabeth Ann could change that. She is the first cloned animal of an endangered species in the US. Elizabeth Ann was produced from a frozen cell of Willa, a black-footed ferret that died in 1988. Willa has no known descendants today, so her clone now has the potential to refresh the black-footed ferret gene pool.
Elizabeth Ann was born on Dec. 10, 2020, and resides at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service black-footed ferret breeding facility in Fort Collins, Colo. The team waited several months to introduce her to the world.
"The first few weeks of their life can be really critical for any ferret, natural-born or clone, and so we wanted to know that she was going to be good," Novak said.
"She is thriving and growing and becoming more and more black-footed ferret-like every day."
Elizabeth Ann was born as part of a litter of domestic ferrets, which are a different species. There are plans to produce other ferret clones for the breeding program. Read more at CBC Radio, and see more adorable pictures.
[via Damn Interesting]