Sunday, 13 June 2010
Rodents of Bristol 1: Hopping to it
Despite the huge diversity of rodents, a very small selection of species is on show in zoos, as they are mostly nocturnal and many species are hard to tell apart by non-specialists. Their husbandry is mostly straight forward, with a diet of seed mix plus some mealworms or crickets sufficing for most desert rodents. The other main factor is their territoriality – with the solitary species males and females should only be placed together for mating and separated immediately afterwards. Providing sufficient space is available, pups should be raised without too many problems.
In fact, one species, that is so rare in the wild that for many years it was believed to be extinct, has become a popular pet. It is of course the Syrian or Golden hamster, Mesocricetus auratus. In the wild the Syrian hamster is found only on the borders of Syria and Turkey, and may have a population as low as 2,500 adults – extremely low for a small rodent. The main threat is persecution as a crop pest and loss of habitat.