The Calgary Zoo Welcomes Five Endangered Vancouver Island Marmot Pups

The Calgary Zoo announced today that 5 Vancouver Island Marmot pups have been born at the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre. 

Since the Calgary Zoo became involved in the Vancouver Island marmot translocation program in 1997, 131 marmot pups have been born at the Calgary Zoo and released into the wild.  These 5 new born pups don’t have names yet; once they receive their vet checks in the fall, there will be a public naming contest.

Found only on Vancouver Island, the Vancouver Island marmot is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. The marmot’s population drastically fell in the mid-1990s, due to habitat change that led to abnormally high predation. In 2003 there were approximately 30 individuals in the wild. Due to these conservation actions there are now more than 200 marmots in the wild, however, the species remains classified as Endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

The Calgary Zoo is one of three facilities that breed Vancouver Island marmots to increase the wild population (Calgary Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Tony Barrett Mt Washington Marmot Recovery Centre).

Marmots born in captivity are sent to Vancouver Island, where they spend the winter in the Tony Barrett Mt Washington Marmot Recovery Centre before being released the following spring. Some wild marmots from larger populations on Vancouver Island are also translocated to boost numbers in smaller populations.  

Together with the Marmot Recovery Foundation, we have been researching which release strategies are most effective for captive born marmots. This research has led to developing a stepping-stone approach to release, where marmots are released in a relatively safe population on Mt Washington to gain wild experience before being translocated to their new home. The result has been greatly improved survival for zoo-born marmots released to the wild.

“As a conservation organization, it is very rewarding for us to be part of the returning Vancouver Island Marmot population,” said Dr. Doug Whiteside, Senior Veterinarian for the Calgary Zoo and member of the Canadian Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team and the Captive Management Group. “Vancouver Island Marmots are an umbrella species — its habitat in the alpine and sub-alpine meadows of Vancouver Island is also home to a variety of other species. By saving this species, we are also protecting a beautiful and rare Canadian ecosystem.”

About the Calgary Zoo: The Calgary Zoo is a globally recognized conservation organization that guides, innovates, and applies scientific solutions to restore some of the world’s most endangered species.  Locally and globally we take action in the wild every day to yield powerful benefits for nature and for people.  Our over 1,000 employees and volunteers are passionate about inspiring people to take action to sustain wildlife and wild places, welcoming over 1.3 million guests annually. As visitors discover the rare and endangered species that we love and care for at our facilities, they are directly contributing through admission and on-grounds sales to a not-for-profit charitable conservation organization that works to fight extinction of plants and animals worldwide.