Hamster Conservation Plan

To support and improve the survival of common hamster populations in Germany

 

The common hamster population in the surroundings of the City of Mannheim -  one of two remaining populations in Baden-Württemberg - experienced a dramatic decline in recent years. There were once four separated distribution areas in this federal state, of which two became already extinct within the last decades. The highest hamster population densities existed near the city of Mannheim, within the Rhine-Neckar-Region, and pest control measures were carried out regularly until 1981. Since then the population has steady declined as a consequence of city and village expansion in the area, the building of additional roads and the ongoing intensification of agriculture. Because of its further expansion in recent years, the city of Mannheim was obliged by the laws of nature conservation to devise a conservation plan for the common hamster.

 

Conservation measures in terms of habitat management and restoration are carried out to improve the status of the wild populations. Farmers are contracted to leave cereal strips (5m/ha) unharvested to increase food availability in summer and/or to plant lucerne fields which is the key habitat of the common hamster. Contracts run initially for five years. The project focusses currently on five separate (sub-) populations which have suffered habitat loss in recent years. There are currently 20 ha under contract. Populations are monitored every spring by burrow counts to control their development. In Heidelberg Zoo a breeding colony was established in 2004 to provide the stock for reintroduction. In 2007 reintroduction started with 46 individuals and 65 hamsters could be released in 2008.

WAZA Conservation Project 09001
is implemented by the Heidelberg Zoo in collaboration with the City of Mannheim, and with the support of the Animal Park Worms and the "Institut für Faunistik".

 

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