Save the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit!
It has been estimated that the current rate of species extictions is a 1000 -10 000 times higher than natural extiction rates. Between 10 000 and 100 000 of an estimated 100 million species are becoming extinct each year. We are truly facing a biodiversity crisis for which we as humans are wholly responsible.
One such species urgently in need of our help is the critically endangered riverine rabbit. This beautiful “bunny” is endemic to South Africa’s succulent karoo and fynbos biomes where it is found in highly specialised riverine vegetation along seasonal rivers. Habitat loss due to intensive farming activities has been the biggest threat to this species. Currently only a few isolated populations are known to exsist (mostly on farm land) and according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) species’ red list, a mere 250 breeding pairs currently survive.
Why should we protect the riverine rabbit?
Not only is the riverine rabbit critically endangered, it is also evolutionary distinct from all other species. It has been listed as one of the Top10 EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) species by the Zoological Society of London.The riverine rabbit has very few close relatives and therefore carries a large amount of unique evolutionary history, contributing hugely to the amount of biodiversity found on our planet. The riverine rabbit represents the smaller, less charismatic species (of which there are millions more). Bringing this species “back to life” (helping to establish viable populations) may spur an onging conservation effort for many other (smaller) critically endangered species. The riverine rabbit may be seen as a “spokesperson” for its highly specialised habitat. Who knows what else may be saved from extiction through the protection of riverine habitat. Maybe an anthropod species not even described yet….
Ecologically, biologically and genetically very little is known about the riverine rabbit. More research regarding this species is therefore of utmost importance. The EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) has done wonderful work including research, collaborating with land-owners and the rehabilitation of degraded habitat. They are also planning to facilitate a groundbreaking population monitoring research project in 2014. This type of research can only be done by using remote camera traps. Camera traps take images of moving objects when triggered by infra-red sensors. This is the ideal method for gaining information on cryptic species such as the riverine rabbit. It is a non-invasive technology that incurs minimal environmental disturbance and provides wonderful information on species distribution, use of habitat, population structure and behaviour.
In 2014 I shall be in my fourth and final year in Conservation Ecology at the University of Stellenbosch. I am excited to be involved in a research project on riverine rabbit ecology with the help of the EWT. However, more camera traps are urgently needed. With your help I am hoping to raise enough money for at least one camera trap valued at R5 358.00.
Please support the cause! Please save the Bunny!
raised of the R 5,358 target