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Monday, February 2, 2015

Fiddles, the Toronto Zoo groundhog predicts an early spring

 Groundhogs are in same family as most critically endangered animal in Canada

Monday, February 2, 2015, Toronto, Ontario: On a very snowy Groundhog Day, there is a silver lining around those snow-filled clouds. Toronto Zoo's groundhog "Fiddles" has predicted that we will welcome an early spring this year.
 Media were on hand at the Zoo this morning as "Fiddles", allowing her appetite to direct her weather prediction, predicted when winter will end. "Fiddles" chose between two signs which stated the weather forecasts, each with "Fiddles'" favourite treat of corn, banana, dandelions, lettuce, yams and apple.
Just after 10:30 am this morning, "Fiddles" officially predicted that we can get ready to pack up our winter wardrobes!           CLICK HERE to see a video of "Fiddles" making her prediction.

On another important note (other than spring is coming early!), the groundhog is in the same family as the Vancouver Island marmot (VIM), one of the most critically endangered animals in the world, and is Canada's MOST endangered mammal. The Toronto Zoo has been involved in the conservation of these rare animals since 1996, when it was first approached by the Marmot Recovery Foundation to begin a captive breeding and release program.
 Within the last 18 years, the entire VIM population had plummeted by 80%. Because of significant captive breeding efforts, including the Toronto Zoo's, the wild population has steadily grown. The Toronto Zoo has also been involved in many research projects to help increase our understanding of this unique mammal and has spearheaded studies on mating behaviour, pup development and hormone analysis for monitoring reproductive cycles of breeding females. This information is vital to ensure that the VIM experiences a triumphant return to the wild.
"The VIM is one of the rarest mammals in North America with the wild population being as low as 25-30 individuals. Captive breeding and reintroduction has been crucial in preventing this species from becoming extinct," says Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo. "There have been a total of 551 weaned pups since the first pups were born in captivity in 2000. This captive success has allowed 453 marmots to be released back into the wild and now the wild population is estimated at 212 to 277 animals. This is a huge step in the right direction in saving this truly Canadian species," says Franke. 
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the VIM (Marmota vancouverensis) as critically endangered. This is a result of habitat alternation due to human activity. Clear-cutting practices are affecting wild dispersal, predator/prey relations, and climate change is impacting their subalpine habitat on Vancouver Island, B.C.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Toronto Zoo's Vancouver Island Marmot Captive Breeding Program.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Vancouver Island Marmot.
The Toronto Zoo is Canada's premier zoo and a leader in animal preservation and environmental protection. More than a tourist attraction, the Toronto Zoo boasts a number of leading programs for helping wildlife and their natural habitats – from species reintroduction to reproductive research. A world-class educational centre for people of all ages, the Toronto Zoo is open every day except December 25 and attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year.
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Toronto Zoo is accredited by CAZA (Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums). Look for this logo whenever you visit a Canadian zoo as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. For more information, visit caza.ca.

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