At 8:30 Wednesday morning, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service delivered an endangered Black-footed Ferret to the Topeka Zoo to be used in an educational exhibit in the zoo’s Gary K. Clarke Living Classroom.
Black-footed Ferrets were considered to be extinct until 1981 when a remnant population was discovered in Wyoming. In 1985, canine distemper and sylvatic plague were killing off the small population of ferrets. Only 18 Ferrets remained. They were trapped and moved to a breeding facility in Sybille Canyon, Wyoming, then ultimately to a newly built National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Wellington, CO in 2005, where captive breeding programs continue today. It was hoped that with enough breeding in a controlled environment the offspring from those ferrets could be used to repopulate their native ranges.
In 2007, the first reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets was made. For the past five years, the Topeka Zoo has participated in the USFWS led Black Footed Ferret reintroduction and monitoring program. As conservation is a key part of the Topeka Zoo’s mission, this local conservation initiative is very exciting to be a part of.
“Having a Black-footed Ferret on display helps connect guests to local conservation issues,” said Dennis Dinwiddie, Education Curator for the Topeka Zoo. “North America is the only place these animals live on earth. This is a local conservation program with international importance.”
The ferret now on display at the zoo is five year old Carmela. She was part of the breeding program at the Conservation Center in Wellington. Zoo guests will find Carmela in the Gary K. Clarke Living Classroom. The classroom is open 10:00 to 4:00 every day of the week.