Spring has come - the marmots woke up
18.03.2019In the first days of March, steppe marmots came out of hibernation in Moscow zoo. The animals felt the forthcoming heat and came out of their cozy burrow onto the surface. In total, the marmots have been sleeping for five months this year.
From the beginning of October, the marmots were in a state of hibernation: their heart rate and breathing were low, their body temperature was 8 degrees, and all metabolic processes were slow. In nature, marmots can hibernate for more than six months, depending on weather conditions. If the spring is early and the snow melts quickly (as this year), the animals can already wake up at the end of February. And if the cold stays and the drifts lie until mid-April, then the marmots will not be in a hurry to wake up. The amount of snow is the determining factor for marmots: after all, the occurrence of food - last year's grass and fresh shoots that form the basis of the marmots’ diet - depends on this factor. However, a few weeks after hibernation animals continue to use their fat reserves and almost do not eat. This time is necessary to restore all metabolic processes and resume the work of the digestive system. Shortly after the marmots wake up, they begin to eat off and come into a tonus; they will prepare for the breeding season.
“This year, due to early warming, our marmots have woken up a little earlier than expected. However, this fact did not affect the well-being of the animals. So far, they rarely appear on the surface and move slowly enough; nevertheless, the male Archie has already managed to walk around the entire enclosure and sniff around with curiosity. During hibernation the animals lost about 1/3 of their weight. So, the male Archie weighed about 6.5 kg in October, and now is about 4.7 kg. The staff caring for the marmots carefully monitor the animals, and begin to feed them gradually: the marmots are given a variety of vegetables and salad, it is very important the portions to be small, since the body of the marmots should be able to recover and return to the usual diet. In the daytime, Archie can be seen walking around the enclosure, but his relatives - the females Nagaina and Sarah - spend most of their time in a warm hole. It is noteworthy that they fell asleep a few weeks earlier than the male, but they are not in a hurry to get out of their shelters”, - Moscow zoo CEO Svetlana Akulova said.
You can watch the marmots in the enclosure at the old territory, located near the pool of gray seals and the enclosure of crowned cranes. For the next few weeks, the marmots will gradually return to their usual rhythm of life, walking more often and digging out last year’s grass from under the snow. Then they will begin to prepare for the marriage period. Eight-year-old Archie and his females, who are 4 years old, have never had the offspring yet. This is primarily due to the fact that it is quite difficult to form a breeding pair of marmots in captivity. Zoo experts hope that this year they will be able to create optimal conditions for the reproduction of marmots.
In nature, steppe marmots can be found in Eastern Europe and Northern Kazakhstan. The population of the species is relatively stable, but in the last ten years it has been steadily declining due to the destruction of the natural habitat of the marmots and their forage lands. This species is listed in the International Red Book, as well as in some regional Red Books, for example, in Omsk.
While the marmots come to life after a long hibernation, the zoo staff are preparing to wake the jerboas up, who spent the whole winter in special refrigeration chambers. A brown bear and two Himalayan bears will also wake up soon.