In the first days of March, steppe marmots came out of hibernation at the Moscow Zoo. These are the eight-year-old male called Archie and two four-year-old females – Nagaina and Sara. The rodents made no appearance on the surface of the cage for almost five months. From mid-October, the animals slept soundly in their hole, which they insulated from the inside with hay and dry foliage when the cold weather drew near.
“During the hibernation period, the marmots lost about a third of their weight. In October, Archie weighed about 6.5 kilogrammes, whereas now his weight is only 4.7 kilogrammes. Our zoologists have started to feed salad and various vegetables to the animals now that they are awake. However, they still don’t get much food, as they need time to recover and return to their usual diet,” said Svetlana Akulova, general director of the Moscow Zoo.
During the daytime, visitors to the zoo can already see Archie strolling slowly across the cage. When the weather becomes stable, Sara and Nagaina will also leave the shelter. You can watch the marmots in the old territory of the zoo. The rodents live near a pool where there are grey seals and close to the crowned cranes’ aviary. As soon as the animals gain weight, they will begin to frolic and play, and then prepare for the mating season.
Svetlana Akulova noted that eight-year-old Archie and the two females had not had any offspring so far. This is because it is quite difficult to form a breeding pair of marmots in captivity. Zoo experts hope that this year it will be possible to create the right conditions for the animals to finally become parents.
In the wild, marmots can sleep for more than six months. If the spring is early and the snow melts quickly, then they wake up as early as the end of February. But if temperatures remain low, then the animals can sleep until the end of March.
Steppe marmots inhabit Eastern Europe and Northern Kazakhstan. This species is listed in the IUCN Red List, as well as in the Red Book of some regions, such as the Omsk Region.
While the marmots at the Moscow Zoo are gathering their energy after a long hibernation, zoologists are preparing to wake up the jerboas, which wintered in special refrigerators. In such conditions, close to those in nature, the rodents fall into a deep sleep until the onset of spring. It will be possible to see the awakened animals soon at the Night World Pavilion. Then, hedgehogs, tenrecs and dormice will wake up. Also, a female brown bear and two Himalayan bears will shortly come out of hibernation.
On 1 March, the Moscow Zoo switched to spring hours as the days began to get longer. Guests can see polar bears, Asian elephants, Gentoo penguins and other animals from 9 am to 6 pm daily. Ticket offices will be open from 9 am to 5 pm.