Jul 1, 2003 | Marmot, Summer 2003

Why Save The Vancouver Island Marmots?

Why it is important to protect the Vancouver Island Marmots more than the obvious, which are that they are endangered?

For some species the balance of nature can be argued – but what about the marmots? Since loss of habitat is one of the most common reasons for species decline we may have to come to the realization that some can’t be saved. So how do we choose?

The first question would be, “Is this a keystone species?”

A keystone species is one whose impacts on its community or ecosystem are large and greater than would be expected from its relative abundance or total biomass. Starfish can often play this role where if the starfish are removed the diversity of an entire bioregion can be affected.

No. The Vancouver Island marmot is not a keystone species. It lives in relative obscurity in the high sub-alpine bowls on Vancouver Island, is an herbivore and as far as we know has never been plentiful enough to serve as a mainstay for predator species.

Does the species have protected habitat to be reintroduced to?

Yes, the Vancouver Island marmot’s natural habitat is relatively pristine. It’s located in high elevations and is naturally devoid of trees so it is still there and available for reintroductions.

Now, with the Vancouver Island Marmots not only is the habitat is important, but also the surrounding lands. How will we ensure they’re not further threatened when we release them into the wild? First the forest industry and government have set aside 1,226 hectares at Haley Lake and Green Mountain as VIM protected zones and second, the VIM Recovery Team is working with the forest industry and Mount Washington Alpine Ski Resort on a Land Stewardship Agreement to ensure mechanisms are in place to protect the marmots and their habitat in the face of further logging or development. So with the forest industry working with us, along with the government and the public, I think we have a good chance for success.

is the species endemic – is it found only in Canada?

Yes! If we allow this animal to go extinct it’s gone forever. I think this question speaks the loudest to me as a Canadian. If a rich country like ours can’t save its own uniquely Canadian animals from extinction – what hope is there for the rest of the world? How supernatural is that? I believe it is our duty as world citizens to protect this species.

Further I believe this project stands as an example of what can be done to save a species even when their numbers have plummeted to the brink of extinction, especially when you have the stakeholders at the table working with you and the will of the Canadian public on your side.

Viki Wilson, Executive Director
Marmot Recovery Foundation

For more information about the rare Vancouver Island marmot visit our website at www.marmots.org

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