Partner search challenge: can you quickly find the offspring of hamsters at the zoo?

European hamsters are solitary, meet only for mating and avoid each other. The endangered animals are bred at Osnabrück Zoo to be released into the wild. Photo: Zoo Osnabruck / Jan Banze

Endangered field hamsters are being bred at Osnabrück Zoo to be released into the wild. Mating small rodents is a challenge even for the experts at the Osnabrück Zoo, because the solitary, gentle animals are not as harmful as they seem. Visitors can also spot field hamsters on Pentecost at the Underground Zoo.

He explains, “When a male hamster is looking for a female to mate with in nature, it is not always without risk.” Andreas WolftangDirector of Zoology at the Osnabrück Zoo. “Because if the females don’t want visitors, they take uninvited guests out of their nest very harshly.” The biologist is responsible for a launch project at Osnabrück Zoo that aims to reintroduce European hamsters to Germany. “We are cooperating with the Opel Zoo in Kronberg, where the project is located,” Luftang explains. Last year, the first small hamster came to Osnabrück Zoo to be bred. “Now is our first mating season, which runs from about April to July.” Each field hamster has its own enclosure, because they do not like to live together in pairs. Although visitors can spot some small rodents in the Underground Zoo, the breeding and release area is located behind the scenes so the animals don’t become too familiar with humans.

Soon the offspring of hamsters in the zoo?

A separate location also has advantages for those responsible, because they can observe the behavior of animals during the mating season without disturbing. “We have to realize that two animals understand each other before we bring them together,” he says. pupil oliver, animal keeper and manager of the “Underground Zoo” area. “If we simply group two field hamsters together, there is a risk that they will attack and, in the worst case, even kill each other.” To prevent this, Schuller has to keep a close eye on how the rodents behave. “We especially built a tight knit facility in which field hamsters get to know each other in what is called a cuddly network. Here they can see each other’s tattoos without conflict. If they show mutual interest, we let them together.” Schuller explains: “It’s the kind of hamster scent they use to signal to their readiness to mate. If the reunion goes well, field hamsters usually spend a day and a night together. “After mating, however, teamwork ends quickly and the risk of conflict increases again. That is why we separate them again, because in nature also, animals quickly go their separate ways after mating.” Now it is time to wait and see. Zoo staff will find out after Pentecost if the mating has been successful, because the young animals will be born after that.

European hamsters are solitary, meet only for mating and avoid each other. The endangered animals are bred at Osnabrück Zoo to be released into the wild. Photo: Zoo Osnabruck / Jan Banze

Endangered

In total, one male and three female hamsters still live at Osnabrück Zoo, because three males and five female hamsters were brought to Hess to be released into the wild last weekend. “We also keep up to three animals in our ‘underground zoo’, where our visitors can discover them. In addition to protecting species, we also pass on knowledge about the animals so that people can learn about and protect them in nature,” Wolftang adds. If the mating is successful, the female gives birth to four to six young after a 20-day gestation period. Next spring, field hamsters will be brought from Osnabrück to Hesse again, where they will be released into the wild by the Nature Conservation Authority of Hesse in designated areas. In the 1980s, hamsters were still considered a nuisance in parts of Germany and were given rewards for their skins. According to the International Conservation Organization IUCN, it is now endangered and reintroduction projects are urgently needed to conserve the rare rodent. If you want to visit the field hamsters at the Osnabrück Zoo, you can spot them there at the Underground Zoo. On Pentecost, the zoo is also open every day as usual from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last entry 5:30 p.m.).

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