Dormice have traditionally been a common species in the UK, until changes in woodland management causing habitat loss and other factors took their toll, causing dormouse populations to plummet and their range to shrink. There have been concerted efforts to preserve and bolster remaining populations of dormice in the UK, on which ZSL has been working along with Natural England and Peoples Trust for Endangered Species .
Anaesthetic induction for a hazel dormouse A reintroduction programme for the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius has been running for almost 20 years. This species is our only native dormouse in the UK, and is a European Protected Species, as well as being an important 'flagship species for UK wildlife conservation. Due to the success of the breeding programme run by Natural England in which ZSL is involved, this year 34 dormice were released into a private woodland in Warwickshire.
ZSL undertook health surveillance and screening on the dormice before they were released, to ensure that the animals were in the peak of fitness to contend with the challenges of reintroduction. It is also vital to prevent the introduction of non-native parasites that could severely damage existing wild dormouse populations.
Anaesthesia is maintained with a facemask The dormice are bred by the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group and were received by either ZSL or Paignton Zoo for pre-release health examinations. At ZSL, the dormice were held under biosecure conditions in the Veterinary Hospital.
During this important period of quarantine the dormice are screened for parasites and each receives a detailed health examination under anaesthesia.
For further information on our work on health and disease in reintroduced native species visit the IOZ's research page
An important addition to this release work is ensuring that there is suitable habitat, such as well-managed woodland. You can find out more about the releases here .
Dormice are kept warm during recovery from anaesthesia