Goal of the project
Aims of the hamster experiment are:
- re-population of core areas in such a way that they can survive as viable populations; therefore a certain number of hamsters is yearly released in the different core areas
- monitoring of released hamsters and their wild offspring and of hamster population dynamics in the core areas
- gaining knowledge of the prerequisites for hamster-friendly management
- designing of hamster-friendly agricultural management packages
- establishing a network of viable hamster populations in 2010.
Additionally, advices are given to the Dutch Hamster breeding program (Diergaarde Blijdorp, Gaiapark) about genetic crossing schemes and number of hamsters to be bred of certain genotypes.
Plan of approach
In 2002 the common hamster was almost extinct in the Netherlands. This was caused by intensification of agriculture over the last decades, leading to a strong decrease or extinction of characteristic species of arable land. In large parts of West and Central Europe populations of the common hamster are strongly declining and in many regions it became extinct already. The common hamster is a protected species (Habitat Directive, Annex IV) and the Netherlands has committed to a sustainable protection of this species. Therefore, a breeding program was started in 1999 with almost the last wild hamsters. Since 2002 hamsters from this breeding program are introduced in certain core areas, where agricultural management is adapted to be hamster-friendly. To find out what kind of management meets the ecological demands of the common hamster and allows the development of viable hamster populations, a hamster experiment was started in 2005 for a period of 6 years.
The hamster experiment will provide insight in the behaviour and mortality risks of the common hamsters and in the forms of agricultural management that fit well with the ecological demands of the species. Different types of agricultural management are tested in a 6-years experiment. Based on this knowledge, adequate measures can be taken to adapt its habitat, allowing the successful return of the hamster to its traditional areas in the Province of South-Limburg. The re-introduction in suitable core areas is accompanied with research, using radio-collared hamsters allowing their monitoring by telemetry.Attention is given also to the way core areas can be linked and to the prerequisites for connection zones. The 6-year hamster experiment will provide precise guidelines for agricultural management, as will be described in packages. Based on this, farmers will be paid for adjustment of their agricultural practices in a hamster-friendly way.