Did you know that Hamsters aren't only found in pet shops?


Hamsters and Humans

Until 1930, it was assumed that the golden hamster was extinct as a species. Then, in 1930, near the ancient town of Aleppo in Syria, a Jewish archaeologist by the name of Aaron Abrahams, came across a nest containing a small rodent with twelve babies that he could not identify. He carefully placed the family into a container and had them taken to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There they were identified as golden hamsters and, under laboratory conditions, encouraged to breed.

As a result, all the golden hamsters kept as pets in the world today are descended from the mother and babies found by accident in Syria back in 1930. It has never again been found in the wild.

Apart from being kept as pets, hamsters have also been popular as laboratory animals. There has been concern that they may escape and become pests, like the common hamster in Europe. They have sometimes formed colonies under the floors of buildings, but generally it is too cold in Europe for hamsters to survive in the wild. Their import is banned in Australia and New Zealand where the climate is warm and dry in parts - perfect for golden hamsters!

The main predators of grey hamsters are mink and stoats. Other hamsters are killed by foxes, birds of prey, domestic dogs and cats. Common hamsters have sometimes been trapped by man for their fur and are considered to be a pest because they dig up root vegetables and eat other crops. Dogs were used to hunt the hamsters, following them by sight. 

European hamster numbers have dropped by up to 75% in numbers across the French region of Alsace, in Germany and across Eastern Europe because female hamsters now give birth to fewer babies than they once did. The IUCN says that in the 20th Century, a female hamster would give birth to an average of 20 baby hamsters a year, but this has dropped to only five or six a year.  Experts believe global warming, industrial development, light pollution and plantations may be possible causes of the decline in breeding numbers and that, if nothing is done, European hamsters will go extinct in the next 30 years.

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