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African Black-footed Cat
Audubon efforts to save endangered wildlife through assisted reproduction once again led to groundbreaking results at Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. February 2012 headlines introduced Crystal, the world’s first African black-footed kitten carried in the womb of a domestic cat. Born via in vitro fertilization, Crystal is genetic sister to the first-ever members of her endangered species conceived through this process, two cats born at Audubon in 2011. Raised by surrogate mom Amelie, Crystal retains her wild traits.
“The science of assisted reproduction for endangered species has come a long way, but every time we can point to another ‘first’ in the field it gives us hope,” said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “We are proving this science works and that we can provide hi-tech options for many different species as the situation grows more and more critical for wildlife across the globe.”
This special black-footed kitten might look similar to domestic cats, but their numbers, according to the Feline Conservation Federation, are very low. There are only 19 such cats in zoo collections in the United States, and only 40 around the world. Native to South Africa, the black-footed cat is one of the smallest wild felines. While hunting them is prohibited, farmers in their range will sometimes poison or trap them.