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Canada's most endangered mammal gets a major boost

As Canada marks its 150th birthday, the Calgary Zoo is also commemorating a successful year for the Vancouver Island marmot. The country’s most endangered mammal will see a major boost with three marmots released into the wild in early July and the birth of at least 16 pups at the zoo’s Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre (DWCC) this spring.

“This has been another very successful year for marmot reproduction at the Calgary Zoo,” says Dr. Doug Whiteside, Senior Staff Veterinarian, Calgary Zoo and Member, Marmot Recovery Team. “Working with our reintroduction breeding program partners, we are able to combine our expertise and make a real difference for these animals in the wild; Vancouver Island marmots are steadily coming back from the brink.”

Since 1998, the Calgary Zoo has played an integral role in working to protect this critically endangered species. Under the zoo’s skilled and knowledgeable Animal Care and Conservation Research Teams, 120 captive-born marmots from Calgary have so far been released to the wild. In addition to species recovery, the zoo is involved in behavioural, reproductive, and health-based research and as one of only two facilities in Canada caring for captive populations of marmots, this species would now be extinct if not for the efforts of the Calgary Zoo and the partners involved.

In early July, Marmot Recovery Team members will travel to Mount Washington on Vancouver Island and release the three animals into their native wild habitat. There, they will continue to be monitored by the recovery team to better under the survival of the species. The pups born this year, will remain at the Calgary Zoo until they turn one-year-old, after which it will be decided on where they will be released in 2018.

This release and these births are significant as marmots are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Vancouver Island marmots were close to extinction however, reintroduction-breeding and science efforts by the Calgary Zoo and other partners have brought them back from the brink. 15 years ago there were as few as 30 individuals and today, around 200 animals exist in the wild.

Other partners involved in the captive breeding program include—British Columbia Government, Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, and Toronto Zoo.


Calgary Zoo