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Introduction to the International Hamster Workgroup

The idea to bring together hamster experts was first born during the 1993 conference of the German Society for Mammalian Biology in Tübingen (GER). During this conference, it became obvious that the common hamster had been a scientifically neglected species for nearly ten years. In terms of species conservation, an urgent need was felt to shed more light on its population decline, the knowledge of which, at that time, was shared by only a few people.

In January 1994, the first meeting was held at the guest house of the University of Heidelberg. During this initial meeting, the dramatic and ongoing decline of Cricetus cricetus in the Netherlands and Germany was discussed and all the participants agreed that further actions were needed. Already in October 1994, a second meeting was held in Heidelberg, because autumn is a better time for field biologists, who can then present new data from the most recent season. The principal aims and purposes of the group, notably to promote hamster research and conservation, to offer an opportunity for exchanging experiences, to support the protection of the species and to provide advice for administrations, agencies and authorities, have not been changed since then. In the following years, the group grew steadily, and more countries joined and attended the meetings. The International Common Hamster Workgroup also became an interface for scientists and conservationists, often stimulating new research and conservation strategies.

In the recent years, it has turned out that the decline of Cricetus cricetus is not only a problem of the “western range countries” like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, but continues also in the east. Again, the International Common Hamster Workgroup has provided a platform for scientists from the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine to present their findings and to get in contact with colleagues concerned with similar problems or research issues.

One of the major outcomes of our group is the recent assessment of the common hamster’s Red List status for the IUCN (

Apart from 2008, yearly meetings were held in various countries, organised by volunteers and often without or with very little financial support. The International Hamster Workgroup is not an organised association like the IUCN or WWF, or any other NGO. It is a network of scientists and conservationists united in their commitment to protect this species from extinction. As a consequence, vivid exchange of information takes place even beyond the meetings.

Ulrich Weinhold
Institut für Faunistik

This article was first published on the website of the Institut für Faunistik (