TORONTO, ON, July 31, 2019: The Toronto Zoo is excited to announce the births of 13 Vancouver Island marmot (VIM) pups in 2019 – bred at one of our specialized conservation breeding centres along Meadowvale Road. This breeding program is part of the Toronto Zoo’s ongoing commitment to save wildlife to further protect species and biodiversity. We are excited to announce that this is the second year in a row that the Toronto Zoo has had an incredible 13 pups born. All 13 pups born in 2018 were released into the wild in 2019.
Since 1997, the Toronto Zoo has been part of the conservation breeding program for the VIM, which is Canada’s most endangered mammal and one of the most critically endangered animals in the world. This species had only 30 individuals left in the wild in 2003, but is now estimated between 200-300 thanks to joint efforts from three Canadian facilities. Since the Toronto Zoo has been involved in recovery efforts, 123 marmot pups have been born at the Zoo and released into the wild. Research and recovery efforts continue to protect the marmot and its habitat on Vancouver Island, BC.
This year, the Toronto Zoo has seven pairs of adult marmots, resulting in the 13 VIM births. On May 2, 2019 pup sounds were heard from one of the nest boxes. Keepers do not open the nest boxes until three to four weeks after first hearing sounds to minimize disturbance. At four weeks, the first three pups started to emerge from the nest box. Since then, all the pups have been venturing throughout their indoor and outdoor enclosure. They are good eaters and always finish their vegetables! The marmot pups will move to the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre to hibernate and they will be released to the wild next spring.
The Toronto Zoo is excited to be hosting the 2019 Annual Vancouver Island Marmot Captive Management Group Conference this week with partners from the Marmot Recovery Foundation, Calgary Zoo, and Province of B.C. The group meeting is taking place at the Zoo on Tuesday, July 30 & Wednesday July 31, 2019 to discuss research and breeding strategies for the continued recovery and protection of the VIM for years to come.