US scientists have successfully cloned an endangered black-footed ferret using frozen cells from a long-dead wild animal, the first time any native endangered species has been cloned in the country.
Black-footed ferret recovery efforts aimed at increased genetic diversity and disease resistance took a bold step forward on December 10, with the birth of Elizabeth Ann, created from the cells of Willa, a black-footed ferret who lived more than 30 years ago, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.
“Although this research is preliminary, it is the first cloning of a native endangered species in North America, and it provides a promising tool for continued efforts to conserve the black-footed ferret,” Noreen Walsh, director of the service’s Mountain-Prairie Region, said.
The species, North America’s only native ferret, was once thought to be extinct but was brought back from nearly vanishing forever after a Wyoming rancher discovered a small population on his land in 1981. They were captured to begin a captive breeding program to recover the species.