Elizabeth ann, a female ferret born on December 10, 2020 has made history. It is the first species at risk of extinction successfully cloned in U.S. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has done so, the association reported on February 18.
The animal was cloned from Willa’s frozen cells, a black-footed ferret that lived more than three decades ago. At present, this species is in danger of extinction, since the breed is descended from seven animals, which is a genetic challenge to recover the species.
Cloning was possible thanks to a genomic study that revealed that Willa’s genome had three times as many unique variations as live black-footed ferrets today. Thus, the reproduction of Elizabeth Ann could provide a genetic diversity unique to the species.
The association has spent months exploring solutions to recover this species, a milestone that has been achieved by scientists from the San Diago zoo, the Association of Zoos and the eEvive & Restore center, among others.
A hopeful investigation
“The Service sought the expertise of valued recovery partners to help us explore how we could overcome the genetic limitations that make it difficult for the black-footed ferret to recover,” said Noreen Walsh, director of the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center.
The investigation started in 2018 is preliminary, but the results open the door to the survival of native animals Americans. “Successful genetic cloning does not diminish the importance of addressing habitat-based threats to the species,” Walsh said.
For this reason, the center has also launched a black-footed ferret recovery plan through assisted reproductive techniques.
The ecological treasure that is Elizabeth ann it is being closely monitored in the United States. The ferret calf lives with a surrogate mother transferred from another center and does not coexist with other black-footed ferrets until all research is completed. In fact, the success of this cloning has encouraged the center to clone more specimens in the coming months.