Established since 2015 at the foot of the Vosges in a former cardboard factory, this special nursery currently houses around 650 “cricetus cricetus”, the scientific name for the European hamster.
700 European hamsters are released annually.
Soon, when the last females are born, there will be “about 700,” explains 28-year-old Celia Chappelle, one of the two responsible for this breeding, which annually releases 500 to 700 large hamsters in the Alsatian nature.
To enter the two breeding rooms, a mask, overalls and overshoes are required. In front of the rooms are tanks of pink liquid, designed to disinfect the feet: not the slightest external microbe will infect these fragile inhabitants, distributed over 500 cells.
Stacked on four levels, in each house alternately male and female, in order to get used to each other in the future of reproduction. Inside, a bedding of shavings and a brick cinder block serve as a mink for these small rodents about twenty centimeters, similar to stuffed animals.
Each mesh door has a supply of water and a container filled with cereal granules, garnished twice a week with apples, crickets and mealworms.
The temperature is carefully regulated: ten degrees during hibernation (October to March), twenty during the rest of the year, especially during the breeding season (April to July). Task: to recreate the external conditions as much as possible so that the hamsters are not too disoriented after being released into the wild.
Those born in Jungholz are released in a year or two. Chip-equipped, they are followed by the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), explains Jean-Paul Bourget, 62, president of the Safeguard Faune Sauvage association that manages this breeding, the most important in Alsace.
Releases often prove dangerous to rodents, of which “70%” die within a year, explains Jean-Paul Bourget, who has been salvaging the animal for decades to save the animal, also called the “European hamster” or “cauchon de rye”, and whose population is dwindling. More.
“When I started counting in the late 1970s, there were 4,000 people in the Upper Rhine and 10,000 people in the Lower Rhine. Today there should be between 700 and 800 of them in total at large in Alsace, alarmed this former Mulhouse Zoo trainer.
A dramatic situation recently highlighted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has classified the rodents as “endangered”, fearing that this “umbrella species” – its protection leads to the protection of several other species – will disappear. thirty years.
In France, the common hamster, found only in Alsace, has been under protection since 1993, and conservation plans have been launched. Not enough for Jean-Paul Burger in connection with the emergence of a complaint against France, which led in 2011 to the call of the European Court of Justice to order. This one considered insufficient measures to protect the animal.
“Corn monoculture has destroyed all biodiversity”
Because since then its presence has continued to dwindle “everywhere: in Alsace, in Germany, in Eastern Europe… The maize monoculture has ruined all the biodiversity,” rages this sixty-year-old resident with a strong character who reminds us that the common hamster needs “favorable environment” to survive. biotope” with a variety of crops (wheat, alfalfa, etc.)
Not to mention urbanization, which is also hurting it: environmentalists, in particular, have risen up against the Strasbourg bypass (GCO), commissioned at the end of 2021 and passing through one of the rare areas where the European hamster lives. even if there was a compensatory exemption.