Endangered animal sanctuaries come in many forms: National forests, protected savannahs, rewilded front yards, parks, nature centers… and even graveyards.
In the bustling capital of Vienna, Austria, quiet graveyards like Central Cemetery, the Zentralfriedhof, and Meidling Cemetery, Friedhof Wien Meidling, have become havens for critically endangered European hamsters. The rodents burrow in tunnels underground and thrive on a diet of candle wax and fresh flowers.
“We have about 70-100 individuals here,” explains Biodiversity at Cemeteries project lead Thomas Filek, “so it’s a quite nice population in the cemetery and it’s quite unique.”
“The interesting thing here in the graveyards of the cemetery is that hamsters adapted to eating candle wax… And they go and try to steal the candles of mourning people, and they can eat it because of the source of fat, and they can digest it. We have a lot of sightings where hamsters trying to steal a candle from a grave, and try to push it in the burrows. It’s quite cute, actually.”
In this 9.5-minute Coexistence-themed video from BBC Earth, wildlife presenter Hannah Stitfall explores these grounds to catch a glimpse of the happy hamsters and their expanding cheeks.
Can you spot the hamster in the image above?
“Hamsters can pack a surprising amount of food inside these cheek pouches, which helps them get enough in their stores for winter hibernation.”
Here’s another delightful video of a Vienna cemetery hamster, a clip from Seven Worlds, One Planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough:
Related reading in Scientific American: Graveyards Are Surprising Hotspots for Biodiversity.
Watch these handpicked videos next:
• X-ray video of how hamsters fit food in their cheek pouches
• Racing Russian hamsters vs. a hamster wheel
• Guinea pigs live wild in the garden
• Why are there so many pigeons?
• Baby flying foxes in Australia’s urban parks
This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.
Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.