Endangered ferrets successfully bred from frozen sperm
Black-footed ferrets, and endangered species, were successfully reproduced from frozen sperm at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The sperm was frozen from a black-footed ferret that had been dead for over 20 years. That ferret, named "Scarface", was one of only 18 of the species that existed in the wild in the 1980s. Recently, eight kits (ferret babies), including Scarface's progeny, were born, giving hope to conservationists hoping to restore the species.
"Our study is the first to provide empirical evidence that artificial insemination with long-stored spermatozoa is not only possible but also beneficial to the genetic diversity of an endangered species," said David Wildt, head of the Center for Species Survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), who were involved in the project.
"Our findings show how important it is to bank sperm and other biomaterials from rare and endangered animal species over time," said Paul Marinari, senior curator at SCBI "These 'snapshots' of biodiversity could be invaluable to future animal conservation efforts, which is why we must make every effort to collect, store and study these materials now."
Facts about black-footed ferrets:
Black-footed ferrets are the only ferrets native to North America.
Black-footed ferrets are carnivorous. Their staple diet is prarie dogs. The mammals can eat up to 100 prarie dogs in a year.
Today there are about 500 black-footed ferrets in the wild.