The garden dormouse has been chosen as “Animal of the Year 2023” by the German Wildlife Foundation. The only about fist-sized rodent with the characteristic eye mask is in Germany as “endangered” on the Red List of Threatened Species, the foundation announced on Tuesday. The species was originally at home in many structurally and rocky low mountain ranges, in these natural habitats you can now only find them in the Harz Mountains, in the Black Forest and in Bavaria.

The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is one of the bilchen, which are also represented in Germany with edible dormouse, dormouse and tree dormouse. He likes to live in parks and gardens – in southwest Germany they are his main distribution areas, as the foundation announced. “There he hides in hedges, crevices in walls, sheds or nesting boxes.” The nocturnal climber hibernates for around six months, after which his body temperature drops to a record-breaking minus one degree. The animals are easy to recognize by their “Zorro mask”, a black band around their eyes and ears.

Overall, the distribution area of ​​the garden dormouse in Europe has shrunk by almost half in the last 30 years, according to the Wildlife Foundation. The election for “Animal of the Year” should draw attention to the endangered species. Research should also be supported, said Julia-Marie Battermann, the foundation’s Bilch expert. “The more we know about the garden dormouse, the better we can protect it.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that intensive forestry, the death of insects and the use of rat poison and pesticides are severely affecting the species, according to the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) on the election. “We have to take action here now so that another species doesn’t disappear,” said Matthias Meißner, BUND department head for biodiversity. “The garden dormouse shows impressively that the extinction of species is also taking place on our doorstep – and that we can all do something about it.”