"..Once found burrowing through grasslands across Europe and western Asia, the hamsters’ range has shrunk dramatically. It’s down by 94 percent in France—where the range now is limited to the Alsace region—and more than 75 percent in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine and Russia. Without action, the hamster will go extinct within three decades, according to the IUCN. European hamsters are important to conserve because they’re a keystone species, serving as critical prey for a host of predators from European red fox to large birds like the Eurasian eagle owl.
“If we lose this species, the ecosystem could collapse,” Ukrainian researcher Mikhail Rusin says—and that in turn could harm human communities that rely on the environment for food, water, and other services. “Some people think they’re disconnected with nature, but they’re not.”
The species’ extinction would also make the world less colorful, Rusin adds. Its black belly, white splotches, and chestnut back make the hamster “perhaps one of the most beautiful rodents in Europe.”