PHOENIX — Twenty-one black-footed ferrets were recently born at the Phoenix Zoo's Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Conservation Center, part of an ongoing effort to increase their populations in North America.
Black-footed ferrets were once thought to be extinct, but through breeding and conservation efforts, their populations have been slowly increasing over the last 30 years, the zoo said. They remain an endangered species, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The babies, called kits, are part of four litters to moms Mandolin, Lazuli, Ridley, and Yoshi.
“The ferret moms are doing a fantastic job of caring for the new kits,” said Dr. Tara Harris, director of conservation and science, in a statement.
"The kits will stay with their mothers for the next few months. Some will likely be destined for release to the wild whereas others will be retained for the breeding program. Wherever these kits go, we are proud to know they will play a part in the recovery of this iconic species," she said.
More than 500 Black-footed ferrets have been bred at the zoo, many of which are released to the wild in Arizona and other areas, the zoo said. It is one of six facilities worldwide that breed these ferrets.
They also breed cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls, narrow-headed gartersnakes, and Chiricahua leopard frogs.
Because the conservation center is located behind the scenes and off-exhibit, the public will not be able to see them.