Is there a glis glis in your at­tic?

Baron Roth­schild was renowned for the ex­ten­sive zo­o­log­i­cal col­lec­tion he built up at his fam­ily’s es­tate in Tring. But while the baron earned the re­spect of many nat­u­ral­ists for his wide-rang­ing col­lec­tion, part of his legacy is now start­ing to cause real

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - LIFE & LEISURE - Have you en­coun­tered a glis glis? Email me with your story at mort.smith@trin­i­tymir­ror.com.

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FYOU live in the Chilterns and you start to hear strange rustlings em­a­nat­ing from your at­tic, you might be for­given for think­ing that pi­geons, mice or squir­rels might be be­hind them since th­ese an­i­mals of­ten seek shel­ter in the eaves of our homes.

But in­creas­ingly, peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing that the vis­i­tor might not be any of those but, in­stead, the glis glis – oth­er­wise known as the fat or edi­ble dor­mouse.

Not a par­tic­u­larly dec­o­ra­tive name, you might think, for a lit­tle creature that cer­tainly looks cute and cud­dly – rather like a chubby, six-inch long squir­rel, com­plete with grey-brown fur, bushy tail and huge eyes.

But sev­eral home­own­ers in the area have be­gun to dis­cover that the glis glis is any­thing but a wel­come house guest.

The glis glis can cause ma­jor dam­age to any home it chooses to in­habit. It de­stroys wooden beams by chew­ing on them, gnaws its way through elec­tri­cal ca­bles, cre­at­ing a very real fire risk and cre­ates an un­pleas­ant smell from its drop­pings.

I’d never heard of a glis glis un­til very re­cently, so I de­cided to do a bit of dig­ging to dis­cover the back­ground to th­ese small van­dals.

They were orig­i­nally im­ported into the United King­dom at the turn of the 20th cen­tury by Baron Lionel Wal­ter Roth­schild, the son of Nathan Mayer Roth­schild, who founded the NM Roth­schild mer­chant bank in London. Lionel Roth­schild had no in­ter­est in fol­low­ing in the fam­ily tra­di­tion and be­com­ing a banker, proudly an­nounc­ing at the age of just seven that he in­tended to open a zo­o­log­i­cal mu­seum.

He started by col­lect­ing in­sects and but­ter­flies and by the age of 10, his col­lec­tion was filling much of the fam­ily home.

As a 21st birth­day present, his par­ents granted him a plot of land on the fam­ily es­tate where he be­gan in earnest to col­lect zo­o­log­i­cal sam­ples from all over the world. At its largest, Roth­schild’s col­lec­tion in­cluded 300,000 bird skins, 200,000 birds’ eggs, 2,250,000 but­ter­flies, and 30,000 bee­tles, as well as thou­sands of spec­i­mens of mam­mals, rep­tiles, and fishes. They formed the largest zo­o­log­i­cal col­lec­tion ever amassed by a pri­vate in­di­vid­ual.

Roth­schild was fa­mously pic­tured sit­ting on the back of a gi­ant tor­toise and once trav­elled to Buck­ing­ham Palace in a car­riage pulled by a team of ze­bras. He was noth­ing if not ec­cen­tric!

On his death, the en­tire col­lec­tion was be­queathed to the Bri­tish Mu­seum.

He is orig­i­nally be­lieved to have im­ported six glis glis, which were fairly common in cen­tral and south­ern Europe.

How some of them es­caped into the wilds of Buck­ing­hamshire is not clear but they quickly es­tab­lished a small colony in the Chilterns which to­day is be­lieved to num­ber around 10,000.

Glis glis hi­ber­nate for a large part of the year, sleep­ing for as long as six months over the win­ter.

The ‘edi­ble’ part of their common name de­rives from the Ro­mans who treated the lit­tle crea­tures as tasty snacks and farmed them.

The dormice were caught in the au­tumn when they were at their fat­test and kept in ce­ramic urns while they were fed all kinds of nuts and fruit to fat­ten them up still fur­ther. They were then roasted and dipped in honey.

Baron Lionel Wal­ter Roth­schild col­lected a vast ar­ray of an­i­mals and im­ported glis glis – the edi­ble dor­mouse, pic­tured – into this coun­try , so don’t be sur­prised if you en­counter any

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