One, Two, Three Ferrets | God's World News
One, Two, Three Ferrets
News Shorts
Posted: April 19, 2024
  • K1 42413
    Noreen, a cloned black-footed ferret, at the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Carr, Colorado (Kika Tuff/Revive & Restore via AP)


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Welcome to the world, Noreen and Antonia.

The female ferrets had an unusual beginning. They are clones. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the successful cloning this week. But the ferrets were actually born in May 2023.

Cloning is copying. To produce a cloned animal, scientists use an existing creature’s DNA. (To learn more about cloning, play a clone memory game.)

Black-footed ferrets are part of the weasel family. They have dark eye markings, like a robber’s mask.

The small carnivores feed on prairie dogs. That’s part of the reason they got into trouble in the first place. Farmers shot and poisoned prairie dogs because they dug up their land. Without this food source, many ferrets died. People thought they were gone for good. Then in 1981, a ranch dog named Shep brought home a dead ferret in western Wyoming. Conservationists managed to capture seven more. One of those was named Willa.

Willa died decades ago. But people froze her body. The remains are kept at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s Frozen Zoo. Noreen and Antonia are clones of Willa. Scientists had already used her DNA. They made another ferret clone named Elizabeth Ann in 2021.

Why would people want to use Willa’s DNA? She lived at a time when black-footed ferrets had more genetic variety. More variety helps a species survive. Today, all the black-footed ferrets alive are related to those last seven ferrets. That’s not much variety.

Black-footed ferrets are a conservation success story. They were almost wiped out. But now people have bred thousands in captivity. They have released the animals in the western United States, Canada, and Mexico since the 1990s.

Will Noreen and Antonia help their species grow stronger? It depends on whether they have babies. Biologists will try to breed Noreen and Antonia with males after they are fully grown later this year.

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on Earth. — Colossians 1:16