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Scientists have cloned the first endangered species in the U.S., a black-footed ferret duplicated from the genes of an animal that died more than 30 years ago.

Elizabeth Ann was born December 10 and is being raised at a Fish and Wildlife facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. She’s a genetic copy of a ferret named Willa who died in 1988 and whose remains were frozen in the early days of DNA technology. Elizabeth Ann is being raised at a Fish and Wildlife facility in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In a press release Noreen Walsh, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region said, “The Service sought the expertise of valued recovery partners to help us explore how we might overcome genetic limitations hampering the recovery of the black-footed ferret, and we’re proud to make this announcement today. Although this research is preliminary, it is the first cloning of a native endangered species in North America, and it provides a promising tool for continued efforts to conserve the black-footed ferret.”

Today, all black-footed ferrets are descended from seven individuals, resulting in unique genetic challenges to recovering this species. Cloning may help address significant genetic diversity and disease resilience barriers to support habitat conservation and reestablishment of additional populations in the wild. Scientists say cloning could eventually bring back extinct species such as the passenger pigeon.

Alexis Zarycki is your average girl with the hopes of leaving an everlasting impact on the world. Follow her on Instagram @official_lexpaige