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Garden dormouse named Animal of the Year 2022

The garden dormouse has a "Zorro"-style mask markings around its eyes Keystone / Alexander Heinl

Swiss environmental organisation Pro Natura has named the garden dormouse “Animal of the Year”, in a bid to draw attention to the country’s wild forests and diverse landscapes.

“The choice of this rarer rodent also shows the limits of the adaptability of our native species,” Pro Natura said in a statementExternal link on Sunday.

The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus), which hibernates over winter “needs diverse forests with deadwood, tree hollows, rocky sections and bushes. Such forests have become rare,” Pro Natura said. Substitute habitats such as orchards, hedges and barns are also disappearing due to the intensification of agriculture, it added.

Numbers have been declining for decades and the nocturnal rodent is no longer present in some areas of the country. Although it is not yet considered at risk on the Swiss Red List of threatened species, it is considered “near threatened” on the global Red ListExternal link, Pro Natura said.

“In order to ensure the survival of the garden dormouse and the 25,000 or so species that depend on forest wilderness, the federal government and the cantons should create more forest reserves,” it added.

According to Pro Natura, forest reserves covered just 6.3% of Swiss forest area in 2018. Switzerland has said it wants to reach a “modest target” of 10% by 2030. “Against the backdrop of the acute biodiversity crisis, this is clearly insufficient,” the organisation said.

Fish of the year

Meanwhile, the whitefish has been designated Fish of the Year 2022 by the Swiss Fisheries Association. Once abundant, it too has come under threat through the deterioration of its habitat, particularly through the use of fertilisers in agriculture, the association said on SundayExternal link.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR