Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the successful cloning of a black-footed ferret -- the first time an endangered U.S. animal has been cloned.
The FWS said the female ferret, dubbed Elizabeth Ann, was cloned from the frozen cells of Willa, a black-footed ferret who lived more than 30 years ago.
Black-footed ferrets were declared extinct in 1979, but two years later a small population was found living on a Wyoming farmer's property. Officials said all black-footed ferrets alive today are descended from seven individuals.
Officials said Elizabeth Ann will become part of a breeding program and will add some genetic diversity to the species.
"Without an appropriate amount of genetic diversity, a species often becomes more susceptible to diseases and genetic abnormalities," the agency said in a statement.
The FWS said scientists are aiming to create more black-footed ferret clones in the coming months.