For the very first time, through the use of frozen cells of a 30-year-old ancestor, scientists have cloned an endangered US animal, creating a black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann.
She is the product of Willa, another black-footed ferret who lived over 30 years ago, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), who showed her off for the first time last week.
Pictured, Elizabeth Ann at just 68 days old (PHOTO: Courtesy of USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr)
The ferret was born in December to a surrogate mother, and scientists hope that Elizabeth Ann will eventually be able to mate in order to rescue the endangered species from extinction.
In a news release, the US Fish & Wildlife Services called it a “groundbreaking effort” which included the partnership of the US Fish and Wildlife Services and other species recovery partners and scientists.
The research in this breakthrough “provides a promising tool for continued efforts to conserve the black-footed ferret,” as described by Noreen Walsh, the Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.
In the news release, she added that “maintaining and increasing wild populations and suitable habitat continues to be essential for the recovery of the black-footed ferret, and will remain a priority for the Service.”
“Successful genetic cloning does not diminish the importance of addressing habitat-based threats to the species,” Walsh added.
The US Fish & Wildlife says the landmark achievement provides hope for future conservation efforts.
In 1996, a sheep named Dolly became the first mammal ever to be cloned through the use of cells from another animal.
While cloning is still being researched, the potential drawbacks and problems are still unknown.
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