There seems to be no limit to the progress of science. We have seen further proof of this in recent months in the United States, where scientists have succeeded in an incredible procedure. They cloned a black-footed ferret, an endangered species. Quite the incredible feat!
Welcome to the world Elizabeth Ann
On December 10th, 2020, a small animal named Elizabeth Ann was born at the US Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region in Fort Collins, Colorado, which was closely involved in the procedure. The ferret was conceived from genetic material cryopreserved since 1988 taken from Willa, another female black-footed ferret. She is not intended to be released into the wild. Instead, she will remain in the centre where she was born in order to be studied by scientists. One thing is certain, she represents great hope for her species. Noreen Walsh, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region, explained:
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.
Only 7 with offspring
While it was thought that this species was on the verge of extinction, hopes were revived in 1981 when a rancher discovered a small colony on his property in Wyoming. The animals were then captured in order to develop a breeding program to save the species. Only seven of them reproduced.
While this has been encouraging for the survival of these specimens, the lack of genetic diversity of the animals is a real danger. There is a risk linked to environmental change but a second one linked to potential emerging diseases. Today, nearly 300 black-footed ferrets have been reintroduced into the wild and an almost equivalent number live in captivity.