SYRIAN HAMSTER (Mesocricetus auratus)
The golden hamster or Syrian hamster, Mesocricetus auratus, is a very well known member of the rodent subfamily Cricetinae, the hamsters. In the wild they are now considered vulnerable. Their numbers have been in decline due to loss of habitat (caused by agriculture) and deliberate destruction by humans. However, they are popular as pets and scientific research animals. Adults grow from 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 cm) in length, and have an average lifespan of 1000 days or 2 to 3 years. The golden hamster is a crepuscular animal. Hamsters sleep during the day in the deepest part of their burrow to avoid predators. They tend to wake up just after sunset, late at night and at dawn, which leads some to falsely describe them as nocturnal. (wikipedia)
Current Status: 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. There may be fewer than 2,500 mature individuals in the population, but more data are required to confirm this. (IUCN)
Kelly’s Comment: Some of you may be shocked to see these little guys on the list. In this case, despite their popularity as pets, it has nothing to do with the pet trade. In fact, all domestic hamsters in captivity throughout the US come from either one mother hamster and her litter or a pair of brother and sister hamsters (there are conflicting reports) taken from the wild in the 1930s. In Syria, hamsters are considered an agricultural pest, and unfortunately for them, there are no conservation measures protecting them. Also, it is difficult to survey the population of these creatures since much of their range is within a military zone on the border of Syria and Turkey. Hamsters are my absolute favorite animals. I’ve had them as pets since I was quite young, so it really broke my heart when I found out their status in the wild. Not only are they endangered, but scientists barely know anything about the way they live in the wild. I was actually only able to find one photo of a wild Syrian Hamster! The other images I’ve chosen are domestic hamsters that I felt reflected the colorization of the wild hamster best (although a couple are long-haired, something that only occurs in domestic hamsters. I also believe the white banding on the center is a domestic only trait).
Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.