There has been a baby boom at the National Zoo for an animal once thought to be extinct in the wild.
Officials from the Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute say it's a banner year. 50 surviving black-footed ferret babies -- called kits -- were born this year at the National Zoo's Front Royal facility in Virginia, helping to bolster the population of North America's sole ferret species.
The black-footed ferret was re-discovered in 1981 in Wyoming when officials found more than 20 in the wild.
David Wildt, head of the Center for Species Survival, says the charismatic ferret is among the Zoo's most successful conservation efforts.
All but one of the babies was born through natural conception, and one was born through artificial insemination. The average litter size is three to four kits, but this year's largest litter had ten kits.
Today around 1,000 black-footed ferrets exist in the wild.
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