The Most Expensive Weasel in the Country

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Millions have been spent to bring back populations of the Black-footed Ferret. Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

I recently had the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lincoln Park Zoo with some of the organization’s conservation scientists.  Before this experience, I gave little thought to the research with which zoos throughout the world are involved.  One of the most interesting stories was the tale of how the nearly extinct black-footed ferret has made a come-back in the wild.

Scientists from the Lincoln Park Zoo contributed to The Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team that has spent huge amounts of money and helped increase a population of less than 20 to up to thousands of individuals.  Scientists at zoos help by studying the genetics of the ferrets and their fertility, or ability to pass on their genes to future generations.  To get more information on the specifics, go to the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program website.  I promise you’ll learn something new!

To me, it was so interesting to find out that in addition to the 17 zoos in the United States and Canada that have these endangered creatures on display for you to see (unfortunately none in Chicago), the zoos are also contributing to scientific research to help inform captive breeding and reintroduction programs.  Zoos aren’t just places to watch animals anymore!

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