Employees of the Moscow Zoo took part in the TAG meeting on small mammals of the European Association of zoos and aquariums in Zagreb (Croatia)

In order to coordinate efforts to manage artificial animal populations in zoos, improve their living conditions, and exchange experience in keeping and breeding animals, the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) has an institute of advisory groups for various animal groups - the TAG (taxon advisory group). Twice a year, the group meets in one of the participating zoos to discuss topical issues and problems. Participation in such congresses provides an opportunity to exchange experience with colleagues from other zoos, allows you to contribute to the formation of the concept of the content of certain species in zoos. TAG on small mammals is one of the most versatile; it oversees the diversity of species of rodents, bats, sloths, armadillos and anteaters. The employees of Moscow zoo have been taking part in TAG meetings on small mammals for many years.


This year the meeting was held at Zagreb zoo (Croatia). The meeting was attended by two employees of the Experimental Department of small mammals of Moscow zoo. During the meeting, the participants discussed topical issues of keeping small mammals in captivity and visited the zoos in Zagreb and Ljubljana (Slovenia).

The curators told about the state of artificial populations of a number of species of small mammals, discussed the problems of systematics of some groups of rodents - punchan, tree porcupines, Prevost’s squirrel. Issues of the maintenance in captivity and exposure of small mammals concerned the Northern Luzon giant cloud rats, beaver rats and Madagascar jumping rats. Employees of Moscow zoo presented two reports on the experience of creating a rehabilitation center for bats in Moscow and the results of a long-term study of a group of Egyptian fruit bats of Moscow zoo.

The final part of the event was an acquaintance with the program for the study and preservation of the Balkan snow vole (Dinaromys bogdanovi). This species is endemic to the Balkan region, and little studied. According to the IUCN classification, the species is close to threatened (VU) and is under protection in Croatia. Its biology has not been studied enough, and the natural habitat seems to be broken into a number of isolated areas. According to its ecology, the Balkan snow vole is a typical petrophilus - animals live in rocky placers formed by karst rocks of the Balkan Mountains. Animals move along cracks of rocks and under stones, seldom come to the surface, eat juicy parts of plants which store for the winter. Due to the peculiarities of their biology, catching and counting the numbers of these animals are difficult. As part of the program for the study and conservation of this species, several individuals have been captured and are kept at the Zagreb zoo. They successfully reproduce in captivity; zoo staff conduct observations of the behavior of these poorly studied animals, and prepare their exposure.

There is a study of voles in their natural habitat at the same time. To do this, the camera traps are set, which allows determining the presence of the species at a specific point. With this method of fixing the data, animals are not subjected to an unpleasant for them procedure of catching. In addition, scientists get an idea of other species using cavities in rocks and under stones, (these are, in particular, certain species of mice and garden dormice), sometimes camera traps fix social interactions between individuals. Employees of Moscow zoo got acquainted with both the artificial population of Balkan snow voles and their habitats, and the method of counting small mammals using photo traps.