- Do not make marmots the new villains after bats, an expert cautioned, even as reports emerged of an outbreak of bubonic plague in Mongolia, China and the Russian Far East caused mainly by Tarbagan Marmot (a species of Marmot).
- Marmots are essentially a type of squirrel and are found on the continents of Europe, Asia and North America.
- South Asia or the Indian Subcontinent is home to the Himalayan Marmot as well as the Long-tailed Marmot.
- The incidents of plague in Mongolia, China and the Russian Far East have been caused largely after locals consumed the Tarbagan Marmot, which is found in the region.
- Marmots are eaten in China and Mongolia. High altitude regions lack proteins. Pastoral nomads usually eat these during their days out on the steppe, when they do not have any other means of sustenance.
- Marmots are also hunted for their fur.
- The squirrels may have been mentioned in antiquity as well. According to one hypothesis, the story of the “Gold-digging ant” reported by Herodotus in Ancient Greece, originated with the Himalayan marmot, whose burrows would be dug by local tribes to collect gold dust.
- Marmots play a very important role in Himalayan ecology. They are prey species for predators including the snow leopard, red fox, hawks, kestrels and eagles.
Back to Basics
- South Asia or the Indian Subcontinent is home to the Himalayan Marmot and the Long-tailed Marmot both are Least Concerned in the IUCN Red List.
- Tarbagan or Mongolian Marmot which is Endangered as per IUCN and found in the region of Mongolia, China and parts of Russia.