Conserving the Black-footed Ferret (2005-2020)
Lincoln Park Zoo was a key partner in the recovery of the black-footed ferret. Research by zoo scientists produced insights for maintaining the reproductive health of this population, which stems from just seven founders.
Just 35 years ago, black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct. But the discovery of a last population near Meeteetse, Wyoming, jump-started a recovery program that has produced 9,600 black-footed ferrets and reintroduced nearly 5,000 of the predators back to the wild.
Lincoln Park Zoo was a key partner in this recovery. Research by zoo scientists has produced insights for maintaining the reproductive health of the population, which stems from just seven founders. In particular they focused on declining fertility rates in the ex situ population. To determine the cause of the population’s limited reproductive success, zoo scientists compared the health and reproductive traits of captive and wild populations in the hopes of one day seeing the species survive on its own. The information gathered from this research helped create management recommendations that will improve reproductive success in this endangered species.