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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
Kike Calvo / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Federico Kacoliris

The El Rincon stream frog only lives in hot springs at the headwaters of a small Patagonian stream. With just a handful of decimated populations remaining, the critically endangered frog is struggling to survive.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
An African savanna elephant in Botswana. Charles J. Sharp / CC BY-SA 3.0

Africa's elephants are in trouble, and human activity is to blame.

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Lourdes Balduque / Moment / Getty Images

As more and more homeowners make the switch to solar power, you may be considering putting panels on your own roof. But before you purchase a home solar system, you should consider the major solar energy pros and cons.

Of course, using the sun as an energy source can reduce your household's monthly electric bills and minimize your carbon footprint. However, making the switch to renewable energy isn't always the best choice for all homeowners. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of solar energy.

Read More Show Less
Vanishing: Song for the Bobolink

In the diminishing refrains of a bird's call, signs of our world disappearing around us.

Insights + Opinion
A bobolink in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA. Jason Crotty / CC BY 2.0

What happens to us as the wild world unravels? Vanishing, an occasional essay series, explores some of the human stakes of the wildlife extinction crisis.

Our small family knew bobolinks from a bird refuge four hours away. Each spring my partner and I made the trip to Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with our daughter in hopes of seeing the 90-plus species of migratory birds we typically spotted over the course of a binoculared weekend. As we headed West we anticipated the winnowing, sky-dance displays of Wilson's snipe, the oranges of Bullock's oriole flashing high in the cottonwoods, and the bright spots of sunshine that dart through riparian thickets — the yellow warbler.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Redditors have raised $350,000 for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund by adopting more than 3,500 gorillas. Richard Gray / Getty Images

Reddit investors have found a way to meme for good.

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A Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Stian Olsen / Flickr

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

The California condor has been teetering on the brink of extinction for decades. When the species was first assessed in 1994 for the IUCN Red List, the global authority on the conservation statuses of species, it was listed as "critically endangered." Nearly 30 years later, its status has not changed. But this doesn't tell the whole story.

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Elizabeth Ann is a black-footed ferret and the first endangered species in the U.S. to be cloned. USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

In a remarkable first, scientists have cloned a U.S. endangered species.

The clone in question is a black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann, and her lineage could bring much needed genetic diversity to the imperiled species.

"[I]t was a commitment to seeing this species survive that has led to the successful birth of Elizabeth Ann," Ryan Phelan, the executive director of biotechnology conservation nonprofit Revive and Restore, said in a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) press release. "To see her now thriving ushers in a new era for her species and for conservation-dependent species everywhere. She is a win for biodiversity and for genetic rescue."

 

Elizabeth Ann's birth was a joint effort from FWS, Revive and Restore, ViaGen Pets and Equine, San Diego Zoo Global and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She arrived on Dec. 10, with the birth first announced on Thursday.

The history of the black-footed ferret makes her birth an especially important milestone. The species once lived throughout the U.S. West, FWS recovery coordinator Pete Gober told The New York Times. But their numbers dwindled as their primary prey, prairie dogs, also declined due to habitat loss, poison and disease. At one point, scientists believed the black-footed ferret to be extinct.

"We thought they were gone," Gober told The New York Times.

That changed in 1981, when a ranch dog named Shep dragged one back to his owners' home in Wyoming. However, disease wiped out much of the newly discovered ranch population. The FWS captured 18 ferrets for a breeding program, but all of the ferrets they have bred and released since have come from just seven parents.

That's where Elizabeth Ann fits in. She is a clone of Willa, one of the last wild-caught black-footed ferrets whose genes were never passed on, according to FWS. However, they were preserved by the San Diego Zoo Global's Frozen Zoo in 1988, making Elizabeth Ann's birth possible.

"With these cloning techniques, you can basically freeze time and regenerate those cells," Gober told The Associated Press.

Scientists determined that her genome had triple the unique variations of the current ferret population, meaning that Elizabeth Ann's descendants could play a role in boosting the species' genetic health, according to FWS.

That won't happen right away, The New York Times reported. First, Elizabeth Ann will be joined by other Willa clones, as well as clones of a male named Studbook Number 2. The clones will breed, while their offspring will be interbred with wild ferrets. Scientists need to make sure that none of the mitochondrial DNA from the clones' surrogate mother, a domestic ferret, is passed on.


Cloning, which involves copying the genes of one plant or animal to make a new one, is emerging as a conservation strategy for imperiled species. Viagen, a Texas-based company that helped clone Willa, also cloned a Przewalski's wild horse last summer, The Associated Press reported. The Przewalski is a Mongolian horse species whose population of around 2,000 is descended from only 12 animals.

Cloning could also recover extinct animals. Ben Novak, Revive and Restore's lead scientist, wants to bring back the passenger pigeon, and the nonprofit is also looking into cloning a wooly mammoth. Some conservationists argue that these efforts take funding away from protecting existing species, The New York Times reported. But Novak argued that the genetic technology required for both de-extinction and conservation is the same.

The FWS also noted that it is not abandoning more traditional conservation efforts.

"Successful genetic cloning does not diminish the importance of addressing habitat-based threats to the species or the Service's focus on addressing habitat conservation and management to recover black-footed ferrets," Noreen Walsh, director of the Service's Mountain-Prairie region, said in the press release.

A California condor at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southern California. Jon Myatt / USFWS

The California condor once ranged from Mexico in the south to Canada's British Columbia in the north, but hunting, habitat loss and poisoning drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A young gray wolf in Wisconsin. Lynn_Bystrom / iStock / Getty Images Plus
A new study found that as many as a third of Wisconsin's gray wolves died from human hunting and the loss of federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.
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A critically endangered regent honeyeater is seen at Australia's Taronga Zoo in 2018. Jss367 / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 4.0
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Trending
The presence of Florida panther kittens is a hopeful sign for species recovery. Carlton Ward Jr.

"How America's most endangered cat could help save Florida."

As its headline promises, National Geographic's latest feature on the endangered Florida panther explores the unspoken, symbiotic relationship between the big cats and the humans they must coexist with. The article also showcases intimate, rare photographs of the panthers, which took five years to capture.

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Footage from a video posted on YouTube showing the fake "rescue" of a Radiated rat snake from the grips of a Short-toed snake eagle. Raptors depicted as "predator" in these videos often show physical signs of abuse such as missing feathers and clipped wings. YoutTube Screenshot

The international animal welfare non-profit, World Animal Protection, launched a new investigation highlighting the rise of staged animal 'rescue' videos on YouTube.

Since 2005, YouTube has grown exponentially. Each minute, 500 hours of video are uploaded to the platform, according to National Geographic. With the sheer amount of content, it takes 10,000 people and machine learning to moderate the site.

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Taxidermists install a coelacanth in a formol-filled tank for the 'Ocean' exhibition ahead of its opening at the National Museum of Natural History (Museum d'Histoire Naturelle) in Paris on March 29, 2019.

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP / Getty Images

French researchers have found that an unusual fish, the coelacanth, can live up to a century, doesn't fully mature until it reaches age 45, and spends years in the womb. Coelacanths are nicknamed, "living fossils."

Previously, it was estimated that the coelacanth was a fast-growing fish that lived for about 20 years. But, the new research published in Current Biology estimates that the fishes' life span is around 100 years. This conclusion was made by studying the coelacanth's scales under polarized light.

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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
Kike Calvo / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Federico Kacoliris

The El Rincon stream frog only lives in hot springs at the headwaters of a small Patagonian stream. With just a handful of decimated populations remaining, the critically endangered frog is struggling to survive.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
An African savanna elephant in Botswana. Charles J. Sharp / CC BY-SA 3.0

Africa's elephants are in trouble, and human activity is to blame.

Read More Show Less
Lourdes Balduque / Moment / Getty Images

As more and more homeowners make the switch to solar power, you may be considering putting panels on your own roof. But before you purchase a home solar system, you should consider the major solar energy pros and cons.

Of course, using the sun as an energy source can reduce your household's monthly electric bills and minimize your carbon footprint. However, making the switch to renewable energy isn't always the best choice for all homeowners. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of solar energy.

Read More Show Less
Vanishing: Song for the Bobolink

In the diminishing refrains of a bird's call, signs of our world disappearing around us.

Insights + Opinion
A bobolink in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA. Jason Crotty / CC BY 2.0

What happens to us as the wild world unravels? Vanishing, an occasional essay series, explores some of the human stakes of the wildlife extinction crisis.

Our small family knew bobolinks from a bird refuge four hours away. Each spring my partner and I made the trip to Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with our daughter in hopes of seeing the 90-plus species of migratory birds we typically spotted over the course of a binoculared weekend. As we headed West we anticipated the winnowing, sky-dance displays of Wilson's snipe, the oranges of Bullock's oriole flashing high in the cottonwoods, and the bright spots of sunshine that dart through riparian thickets — the yellow warbler.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Redditors have raised $350,000 for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund by adopting more than 3,500 gorillas. Richard Gray / Getty Images

Reddit investors have found a way to meme for good.

Read More Show Less
A Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Stian Olsen / Flickr

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

The California condor has been teetering on the brink of extinction for decades. When the species was first assessed in 1994 for the IUCN Red List, the global authority on the conservation statuses of species, it was listed as "critically endangered." Nearly 30 years later, its status has not changed. But this doesn't tell the whole story.

Read More Show Less
Elizabeth Ann is a black-footed ferret and the first endangered species in the U.S. to be cloned. USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

In a remarkable first, scientists have cloned a U.S. endangered species.

The clone in question is a black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann, and her lineage could bring much needed genetic diversity to the imperiled species.

"[I]t was a commitment to seeing this species survive that has led to the successful birth of Elizabeth Ann," Ryan Phelan, the executive director of biotechnology conservation nonprofit Revive and Restore, said in a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) press release. "To see her now thriving ushers in a new era for her species and for conservation-dependent species everywhere. She is a win for biodiversity and for genetic rescue."

 

Elizabeth Ann's birth was a joint effort from FWS, Revive and Restore, ViaGen Pets and Equine, San Diego Zoo Global and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She arrived on Dec. 10, with the birth first announced on Thursday.

The history of the black-footed ferret makes her birth an especially important milestone. The species once lived throughout the U.S. West, FWS recovery coordinator Pete Gober told The New York Times. But their numbers dwindled as their primary prey, prairie dogs, also declined due to habitat loss, poison and disease. At one point, scientists believed the black-footed ferret to be extinct.

"We thought they were gone," Gober told The New York Times.

That changed in 1981, when a ranch dog named Shep dragged one back to his owners' home in Wyoming. However, disease wiped out much of the newly discovered ranch population. The FWS captured 18 ferrets for a breeding program, but all of the ferrets they have bred and released since have come from just seven parents.

That's where Elizabeth Ann fits in. She is a clone of Willa, one of the last wild-caught black-footed ferrets whose genes were never passed on, according to FWS. However, they were preserved by the San Diego Zoo Global's Frozen Zoo in 1988, making Elizabeth Ann's birth possible.

"With these cloning techniques, you can basically freeze time and regenerate those cells," Gober told The Associated Press.

Scientists determined that her genome had triple the unique variations of the current ferret population, meaning that Elizabeth Ann's descendants could play a role in boosting the species' genetic health, according to FWS.

That won't happen right away, The New York Times reported. First, Elizabeth Ann will be joined by other Willa clones, as well as clones of a male named Studbook Number 2. The clones will breed, while their offspring will be interbred with wild ferrets. Scientists need to make sure that none of the mitochondrial DNA from the clones' surrogate mother, a domestic ferret, is passed on.


Cloning, which involves copying the genes of one plant or animal to make a new one, is emerging as a conservation strategy for imperiled species. Viagen, a Texas-based company that helped clone Willa, also cloned a Przewalski's wild horse last summer, The Associated Press reported. The Przewalski is a Mongolian horse species whose population of around 2,000 is descended from only 12 animals.

Cloning could also recover extinct animals. Ben Novak, Revive and Restore's lead scientist, wants to bring back the passenger pigeon, and the nonprofit is also looking into cloning a wooly mammoth. Some conservationists argue that these efforts take funding away from protecting existing species, The New York Times reported. But Novak argued that the genetic technology required for both de-extinction and conservation is the same.

The FWS also noted that it is not abandoning more traditional conservation efforts.

"Successful genetic cloning does not diminish the importance of addressing habitat-based threats to the species or the Service's focus on addressing habitat conservation and management to recover black-footed ferrets," Noreen Walsh, director of the Service's Mountain-Prairie region, said in the press release.

A California condor at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southern California. Jon Myatt / USFWS

The California condor once ranged from Mexico in the south to Canada's British Columbia in the north, but hunting, habitat loss and poisoning drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A young gray wolf in Wisconsin. Lynn_Bystrom / iStock / Getty Images Plus
A new study found that as many as a third of Wisconsin's gray wolves died from human hunting and the loss of federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Read More Show Less
A critically endangered regent honeyeater is seen at Australia's Taronga Zoo in 2018. Jss367 / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 4.0