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Mesocricetus auratus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA RODENTIA CRICETIDAE

Scientific Name: Mesocricetus auratus
Species Authority: (Waterhouse, 1839)
Common Name(s):
English Golden Hamster

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B1ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Yigit, N. & Kryštufek, B.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
This species has a small range (extent of occurrence is definitely less than 20,000 km² and potentially less than 5,000 km²) and is restricted to a small, fragmented area on the Turkish/Syrian border. The species is undergoing continuing decline from habitat loss (due to agriculture) and persecution. Population densities are believed to be low. In Turkey, the species is very rare; only three localities are known. Due to threats from expanding human settlements and agriculture (including habitat loss, degradation and direct poisoning of the species) the population is declining and its range is shrinking. It is not known if the distribution is severely fragmented, but it is likely that there are fewer than 10 locations. Currently it qualifies for Vulnerable (VU B1ab(ii,iii,v)).

There may be fewer than 2,500 mature individuals in the population, but more data are required to confirm this (N. Yigit pers. comm. 2007). Research is underway for this species, but there is a need for more focus on monitoring to determine population trends. The species should be reassessed in a few years' time.
History:
1996 Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The main distribution area of the golden hamster is the fertile, agricultural and densely populated Aleppinian plateau in Syria, 280-380 m above sea level. The plateau area covers c.10,000-15,000 km2. The Turkish and Syrian sites may form a connected distribution area, but data to confirm this cannot easily be obtained because of restricted access to the military-protected border zone between Syria and Turkey (Gattermann et al., 2001).
Countries:
Native:
Syrian Arab Republic; Turkey
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Reported to be much rarer than the grey hamster (Qumsiyeh, 1996). During two short expeditions to the main distribution area in Syria only a limited number of individuals were found (Gattermann et al., 2001). Distribution is presumably patchy but the hamsters may be locally abundant based on biological surveys and observations of local farmers; data are insufficient for confirmation (Gattermann et al. 2001).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species is mainly found in arable fields with annual crops such as wheat, barley, chickpeas, lentils, and vegetables (Demirsoy et al., 2006). Records of steppe populations probably result from confusion with the Turkish hamster Mesocricetus brandti (Gattermann et al. 2001). The golden hamster is a solitary, nocturnal and omnivorous (Qumsiyeh, 1996) species inhabiting burrows which can reach up to nine metres long (Gattermann et al. 2001). Anecdotal evidence from farmers indicates hibernation might occur between November and February (Gattermann et al. 2001). Reproductive activity possibly begins in February. A female with two to three week old juveniles was recorded in late March (Gattermann et al. 2001).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss caused by increasing human settlements is the main threat to the golden hamster in Syria. The impact of natural predators on hamster populations is probably negligible. Golden hamsters are considered one of the most important agricultural pests and animals are trapped or poisoned in February as soon as burrow entrances become visible. Farmers apply large quantities of rodenticides provided by the government. In May and June most fields are harvested, burnt and ploughed; sheep feed on remaining plants making it increasingly difficult for hamsters to find cover, nutrition or sufficient food for winter storage (Gattermann et al., 2001). This species is considered a pest in Syria.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: No conservation measures in place. Research is required to determine population trends and conservation requirements.

Citation: Yigit, N. & Kryštufek, B. 2008. Mesocricetus auratus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 September 2014.
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