Government earmarks €623,500 to save the wild hamster


Flanders’ wild hamster population is down to one colony, having been virtually wiped out by modern farming techniques, but the government is shoring up the population

Only 30 left

Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege has approved spending of €623,500 for a campaign to restore populations of the wild hamster in Flanders. The animal, also known as the European or black-bellied hamster (Cricetus cricetus), has gone from being a common pest to being virtually extinct now.

The main part of the project concerns releasing hamsters bred in captivity into the wild, having improved the living conditions for hamsters in co-operation with farmers. The hamster was once a rapacious destroyer of crops, but today the only remaining colony, numbering about 30, is in the Tongeren area of Limburg. 

“The hamsters are brown, white and black and a cousin of the tame hamster kept as a pet,” explained Jos Ramaekers of nature conservancy organisation Natuurpunt. “During the day it lives underground in a burrow, coming out at night to eat seeds and weeds.”

Modern farming techniques, however, no longer leave behind a sustainable supply of food on the edges of fields. “We will come to an agreement with farmers,” promised Schauvliege. The plan allows for them to let crops stand at the edges of fields to provide food and shelter for the hamster, in return for compensation. The minister has set a target for the growth of the population of hamsters: 500 burrows over the next five years.

Photo: Katanski/Wikimedia