A search engine in Russia has begun collecting and ranking searches for “Russian hamsters” on a US search engine that specializes in searching for the animal.
The search engine TeroLingo, which is based in St. Petersburg, is the first such platform to start a bounty campaign for hamsters on the Russian Internet, Russian news outlet TASS reported.
Russian authorities in recent years have banned the importation of hamsters from the United States and placed restrictions on imports from certain countries.
But Russian authorities say the import of hamster meat is a legitimate trade, given the country’s history of producing it.
In recent years, TeroLi is also used to list the locations of various wildlife preserves, including some in Russia.
Tero Li launched the bounty campaign, according to TASS.
It was launched in late February.
“It’s clear that the Russian government wants to control the internet, which in turn is a big threat to the safety and security of our citizens,” Alexander Zolotarev, head of the Federal Agency for Information Technology, told TASS on Monday.
Zolotiadov said that Tero li was looking for more than just hamsters.
“We’re also looking for other information that might help us understand the behavior of Russian hamsters,” he said.
Tserkovskaya Gazeta, the state-owned newspaper, reported Monday that Tserkovskaya has been searching for information about Russian hamster breeding in its databases.
Russian officials have long suspected that hamsters are a food source for the people of Russia, and have sought to control imports of hammers and other animals for decades.
Russian law stipulates that a person must possess a permit to import or export hamsters for “the purpose of the manufacture or production of food, cosmetics, pet food, or medicine for human consumption.”
In 2008, the Russian Federation’s State Duma adopted a new law that included the requirement that any food manufactured from hamsters must also be labeled as such.
In 2014, a government report published in the TASS news outlet noted that Russia’s hamster farmers, known as vozdzhiys, were the largest producers of hamstering in the country.
The report cited statistics showing that the vozdy (hamster) industry produced more than 3.7 billion metric tons of ham meat in 2016, with an average value of nearly 10,000 metric tons.
Tilya Vukhovskaya, a hamster breeder in Stavropol, the region where Teroli is located, told The Associated Press she believed hamsters were an important part of Russian cuisine.
“Hamsters are an important ingredient in the Russian cuisine, especially for ham and pork,” Vukkovsaya said.
“There are many restaurants that are famous for cooking hamster.”
In a recent interview with Russian news site Gazeta.ru, Vukovsaya noted that Russian hamsterers do not have a license to sell hamsters to the public, and therefore cannot sell the meat themselves.
But she said she hoped that Tefil, the company behind the Hamster Bounty website, would soon begin offering hamsters in their restaurants.