21 dormice have arrived at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, on their way to being released into the wild in Warwickshire.
The release follows an ongoing effort to help save the endangered species.
That one object dormice love
Toilet roll tubes are well and truly loved by the mammals since they make ideal hiding places.
Paignton Zoo’s vet nurse, Kelly Elford explains how they are caring for the dormice:
We have the dormice in quarantine for some weeks prior to release. The toilet roll tubes are just the right size for the animals to sleep in and are easily disposed of when we clean out their tanks.
We put in wood shavings, hay, leafy branches and a toilet roll tube. Some dormice pull hay into the tube and sleep there – some ignore them completely, but at least they have the option. This is a really useful – and very unusual – way to recycle old cardboard!
Spend half their life asleep
Spending half their life asleep, a past time many of us would like, hibernating in nests throughout the winter.
The Hazel dormice are primarily arboreal so can climb well by using their tails to balance.
As the name implies, hazel dormice love hazlenuts, and are the usual culprits for the discarded shells with characteristic bite holes.
The dormice are put into quarantine, initially, Kelly explains why:
They are kept in strict quarantine and cared for by keepers. We check them over, weigh them and worm them and then implant tiny microchip transponders under their skin so they can be individually identified in the future
The animals will have to remain in quarantine from the time they start the tests through to the time they go for release.
The aim of the quarantine period is to ensure they are not carrying diseases that the dormice can release into the wild.
The animals will be paired up at the release site in June.
The dormice, compromising of 11 males and 10 females were brought to Paignton Zoo from private breeders.
The private breeders are members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group.
Animals from the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group have to pass their veterinary screening and will be released into the wild.
The reintroduction is being led by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).
Speaking on behalf of the PTES, Ian White, Dormouse & Training Office said:
Since the first reintroduction took place in 1993, more than 900 dormice have been released across 12 English counties which is helping to create dormouse ‘strongholds’ in counties where they have sadly become extinct.
Sympathetic Woodland Management
Hazel dormice or to give them their Latin name, Muscardinus avellararius grow to a length of 6.5 to 8.5cm and weigh just 18 to 25 grams.
Dormice spend most of their life in wooded areas where they eat flower blossoms, grubs and occasionally bird eggs in the spring and summer.