The garden dormouse disappears
The garden dormouse was originally native in wide parts of Central- and East Europe. The distribution area ranged from the Atlantic coast of Portugal and France to the southern Urals in Russia and Finland, as well as southern Spain and Sicily. Meanwhile it is already extinct in some European countries or critically endangered. During the last 30 years, the distribution of the garden dormouse decreased by around 50 % across Europe.
Today, a large part of the worldwide garden dormouse population lives in Germany. That is why, according to the National Strategy on Biological Diversity, Germany has a special responsibility for maintaining the species: the garden dormouse is a so-called responsibility species. But many regions in Germany also report drastic declines in their populations.
Exploring and conservation
In the project “In search of the garden dormouse” the reasons for the decline of garden dormice should be investigated. With the help of these findings, an effective conservation concept for the garden dormouse is then developed and implemented.
This project is realised within the framework of the Federal Programme for Biological Diversity. It is funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with resources from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
What do we have in mind?
The current distribution of the garden dormice is the basis for assessing the actual risk situation. The comparison between current and original distribution provides initial indications of the development of populations and possible causes for their decline. That's why we do not just want to know WHERE garden dormice are found in Germany, but also HOW MANY garden dormice live in particular regions. We have set up our registration office here online.
In addition to the distribution of the garden dormouse, further aspects are examined in the project:
• The phenology: When are garden dormice active? When and how long do they hibernate? When will the offspring be born? What are the differences between the project areas?
• The habitats: Which habitats does the garden dormouse colonize in Germany? What are the decisive framework conditions (climatic, physiographic) and structures?
• The food: How do garden dormice feed? Which food resources do they use in different habitats?
• Competitors and predators: Which effects have species with similar habitat requirements and predators (such as edible dormice, house cats) play in the different study areas? Is the occurrence and frequency (commonness) of the garden dormouse influenced or limited by other species?
• Genetics: What characterizes the garden dormouse gene pool in Germany? Are there any genetically adapted garden dormouse forms (regional chromosomal forms) and how do they differ? Are there evidences of genetic reduction?
• Diseases and parasites: What are the most common causes of death, from which diseases and parasites suffers the garden dormouse in Germany? Do these factors play a role as a possible cause of decline?
The research should yield information which conservation measures are most effective for the garden dormouse. It is conceivable, e.g. the elimination of rat poison in distribution areas, covering of rain barrels as protection against drowning, an increase in the proportion of wild shrubs, cairns and hiding places in gardens, the absence of insecticides in the forest and much else.
In Hessen alone, around 200 garden dormice are released each year into the wild by animal rescue centres. These stations often reach their limits. The project supports the wild animal rescue centres by training and direct assistance in bringing back the garden dormouse to their original habitats. In this way, we also try to re-establish new and connect isolated garden dormouse occurrences in former distribution areas.
A reintroduction of garden dormice can make an important contribution to the preservation of the species and respective animal populations. In the context of "In search of the garden dormouse ", the conditions and regions in which this makes sense and is realistic will be examined in detail. In addition, the networking of existing garden dormouse populations is also being promoted. Resettlement and networking of existing populations are of great importance. Only in this way gene exchange can be increased or made possible and healthy populations maintained or created.