Asian garden dormouse (Eliomys melanurus)

GenusEliomys (1)
SizeHead-body length: 10 - 18 cm (2)
Tail length: 9 - 14 cm (2)
Weight45 - 120 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The agile Asian garden dormouse is well-adapted for climbing around the rocky surfaces and vegetation of its habitat (3). It has four digits on the forefeet and five digits on the hind feet, with short, curved claws suited to climbing, and the soles of the feet have a cushion-like covering (3). It has short fur, ranging through various shades of grey and brown on the upperparts and creamy white on the underparts, and black markings adorn the face. A black tuft at the tip of the tail may act as a decoy to distract the attention of predators away from the head and body (2). While the Asian garden dormouse’s brilliant sense of hearing usually helps it to detect the approach of stealthy predators, it can shed its long tail if seized by a predator such as an owl (3). The Asian garden dormouse has the ability to produce clicks, whistles and growls, in a range of situations (3).

The Asian garden dormouse is found in north-east Africa and the Middle East, where it occurs from low-lying deserts up to 2,850 metres above sea level (1).

The Asian garden dormouse exists in a wide variety of habitats, from steppe and semi-desert to high mountains, and from rocky areas with very little vegetation to snow-covered areas in winter (1).

A largely nocturnal species, the Asian garden dormouse seeks shelter during the day in hollow trees and crevices among rocks, and may occasionally use a bird or squirrel nest as a foundation for building a shelter (2). Large numbers of individuals may live together in a relatively small area, sharing sleeping and feeding sites (2).

The Asian garden dormouse is one of the most carnivorous of all dormice (3). While its diet includes any nuts and fruits it can obtain, it is believed to primarily be a predator, preying on insects, small rodents and young birds (2). In some parts of its range, the Asian garden dormouse gains weight in autumn in preparation for a hibernation period, in order to avoid the perils of the coldest part of the winter (2).

During the mating season, the female Asian garden dormouse uses a whistle to attract a male. Once successful mating has occurred the female marks the area around the nest with scent and defends the area from intruders (3). The nest is a compact, round structure made of leaves and grass and situated up to three metres off the ground (2). Typically, one litter is produced each year (3), with each litter containing from two to eight young, born after a gestation period of 22 to 28 days (2). First opening their eyes at about 21 days of age, the young are weaned after 4 weeks, and may live for over 5 years (2).

The Asian garden dormouse is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction, as it has a wide range and is not thought to be facing any serious threats. However, overgrazing and loss of vegetation may be a problem for this species in some areas (1).

The Asian garden dormouse is offered some protection by its occurrence in a number of protected areas, but there are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for this species (1).

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. Baudoin, C. (2001) Dormice. In: Macdonald, D.W. (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.