Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Partners Announce Innovative Cloning Advancements for Black-footed Ferret Conservation
Partnership supports conservation, genetic research and protection of endangered species
Media Contacts

DENVER — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its genetic research partners announce the birth of two new black-footed ferret clones – known as Noreen and Antonia – and are providing an update on their latest efforts to breed previously cloned black-footed ferret, Elizabeth Ann

Black-footed ferret clone Antonia.

Noreen was born at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado, while Antonia resides at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia. Both were cloned from the same genetic material as Elizabeth Ann. They are healthy and continue to reach expected developmental and behavioral milestones. The Service and its research partners plan to proceed with breeding efforts for Noreen and Antonia once they reach reproductive maturity later this year.

This scientific advancement to clone the first U.S. endangered species is the result of an innovative partnership among the Service and critical species recovery partners and scientists at Revive & Restore, ViaGen Pets & Equine, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The application of this technology to endangered species addresses specific genetic diversity and disease concerns associated with black-footed ferrets. The Service views this new potential tool as one of many strategies to aid species recovery alongside efforts to address habitat challenges and other barriers to recovery.

Elizabeth Ann remains healthy at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in northern Colorado, exhibiting typical adult ferret behavior. Planned efforts to breed Elizabeth Ann were unsuccessful due to a condition called hydrometra, where the uterine horn fills with fluid. Her other uterine horn was not fully developed, which is not unusual in other black-footed ferrets and therefore not believed to be linked to cloning. Elizabeth Ann otherwise remains in excellent health, symbolizing the early progress in biotechnology for species conservation. 


Black-footed ferret clone Noreen.

Elizabeth Ann, Noreen and Antonia were cloned from tissue samples collected in 1988 from a black-footed ferret known as Willa and stored at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s Frozen Zoo. These samples contain three times more unique genetic variations than found on average in the current population. Introducing these currently unrepresented genes into the existing population would significantly benefit the species’ genetic diversity.

All black-footed ferrets alive today, except the three clones, are descendants of the last seven wild individuals. This limited genetic diversity leads to unique challenges for their recovery. Besides genetic bottleneck issues, diseases like sylvatic plague and canine distemper further complicate recovery efforts. Cloning and related genetic research could offer potential solutions, aiding concurrent work on habitat conservation and reintroducing black-footed ferrets into the wild.

Continuing genetic research for black-footed ferrets includes efforts to breed offspring from Noreen and Antonia, which would significantly increase the species’ genetic diversity. Collaborative work among partners also aims to achieve other long-term goals, such as developing resistance to sylvatic plague and potentially other diseases.

Ongoing collaboration with innovative partners is driving scientific progress, underscoring the crucial role of conservation partnerships in safeguarding and improving American biodiversity. The Service will continue to provide updates as the research progresses. This research does not in any way supplant or diminish the Service’s efforts to recover the species in the wild. Those efforts, including reintroduction and monitoring of extant populations across the Great Plains, are ongoing, and the Service continues to collaborate with many partners working to conserve habitat for the species.

More information about black-footed ferret conservation and biology is available from the Service’s National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center and additional Questions and Answers related to this announcement.


Media contacts:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Joe Szuszwalak,
Smithsonian: Annalisa Meyer,
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance: Jake Gonzales, 
AZA: Betsy Hildebrandt, 
Revive & Restore: Kika Tuff, 
ViaGen Pets: Lauren Aston, 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit and connect with us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube.

Revive & Restore is the leading wildlife conservation organization promoting the incorporation of biotechnologies into standard conservation practice. The Sausalito, California nonprofit was formed in 2012 with the idea that 21st century biotechnology can and should be used to enhance genetic diversity, build disease resistance, facilitate adaptation and more. Its mission is to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species. 

ViaGen Pets & Equine is the worldwide leader in cloning the animals we love. We provide the option of hope through DNA storage of your unique dog, cat or horse. Then through our amazing cloning technology we provide joy to clients all over the world with a genetic twin to their original animal. Our team is dedicated to providing outstanding service, quality animal care and a love that lasts forever. ViaGen Pets and Equine is dedicated to conversation through partnership efforts with the San Diego Zoo and Revive & Restore. 

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit conservation leader, inspiring passion for nature and collaboration for a healthier world. The Alliance supports innovative conservation science through global partnerships. Through wildlife care, science expertise and collaboration, more than 44 endangered species have been reintroduced to native habitats. Annually, the Alliance reaches over 1 billion people, in person at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and virtually in 150 countries through media channels including San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers television program in children’s hospitals in 13 countries. Wildlife Allies – members, donors, guests – make success possible.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) leads the Smithsonian’s global effort to save species, better understand ecosystems and train future generations of conservationists. Its two campuses are home to some of the world’s most critically endangered species. Always free of charge, the Zoo’s 163-acre park in the heart of Washington, D.C., features 2,100 animals representing 400 species and is a popular destination for children and families. At the Conservation Biology Institute’s 3,200-acre campus in Virginia, breeding and veterinary research on 250 animals representing 20 species provide critical data for the management of animals in human care and valuable insights for conservation of wild populations. NZCBI’s more than 300 staff and scientists work in Washington, D.C., Virginia and with partners at field sites across the United States and in more than 30 countries to save wildlife, collaborate with communities and conserve native habitats. NZCBI is a long-standing accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), founded in 1924,is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal wellbeing, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your connection to helping animals all over the world.

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