LAWRENCE, Kan. — Scientists have successfully cloned a ferret and the ferrets used in the cloning project found a new home at the Prairie Park Nature Center in Lawrence, Kansas.
The black footed ferret was selected for cloning because it’s one of the most endangered species in North America.
Elizabeth Ann, the clone, is now living in Colorado. She’s the first ever North American endangered species that was successfully cloned.
It’s a project scientists have been working on for the last seven years.
“She was the only one of four clones that survived that,” Nature Education Supervisor Marty Birrell said.
Elizabeth Ann’s clone mommas, or surrogate moms, are Lizzy and Annie, hence the name.
Lizzy gave birth to the clone on Dec. 10. From there, Annie nursed and raised Elizabeth Ann.
So what ferret did scientists actually clone?
Birrell said they chose a black footed ferret named Willa. Her genetics were cryo frozen in 1987, more than 35 years ago.
“So her tissue of genetics was extracted, put into the egg of a European ferret that had, had its genetics removed,” Birrell said. “And then implanted in our female domestic ferret, Lizzy, who was ready to breed.”
Birrell is honored Lizzy and Annie call Lawrence home.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services chose Prairie Park Nature Center because of its attachment to the black footed ferret recovery program in Kansas.
Naturalist Rachel Neff says these clone mommas will help educate people on genetic tools and how they believe it can save endangered species.
“Part of the reason Black foot ferrets were endangered and extinct multiple times is because they lost their critical food source,” Neff said.
The cloning process is ongoing. More clones are expected to be born this spring.