Race to save unique SA rabbits

2011-06-10 13:02

Cape Town - Endangered rabbits endemic to the Karoo have been given a boost with a donation from Lindt to the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Riverine Rabbit Programme.

The rabbits are critically endangered and seem to rebuff the cliché of "breeding like rabbits".

"They only produce one young each year. They have a very slow generation time, in terms of increasing their numbers," Christine Mentzel conservation manager for the Endangered Wildlife Trust told News24.

Lindt donated R250 000 to coincide with Environment Week in an effort to save the elusive rabbit and its habitat.

"The problem is really more fragmentation of habitat, loss of habitat, and potentially other threats like hunting with dogs, road kill to some degree as well," said Menzel.

Habitat conservation

The Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) occurs near rivers and habitat conservation is important because the animal relies on the vegetation near rivers or riverbeds to survive.

"It doesn't have to be flowing rivers so it's the riparian zones and the soils and vegetation that goes with those soils that important for their habitat," Mentzel said.

The Endangered Wildlife trust believes that it is important to protect these rabbits as they also are an indicator of the health of the environment and farmers in the area generally support projects to conserve the riparian zones.

"They are endemic to South Africa, they are critically endangered, which means at the moment we suspect there are less than a thousand individuals left.

"If we as South Africans don't look after them, nobody else is going to and they go extinct," warned Mentzel.

She said the programme at the moment was not looking at re-introducing the rabbit, but rather focussing on its habitat. In 2004, a new population was discovered.

"At the moment we're not looking at re-introduction, what is very exciting is that since about 2004 we've discovered that there is another population in the Touwsrivier, Barrydale area of the Little Karoo."


Before this discovery, the main focus of the programme was in the Loxton to Fraserburg area, and only a few animals were identified.

"The estimate for that northern population is around 300 animals - it's very hard to get a definitive figure - but that's what we suspect at the moment."

The organisation hopes to use the money to survey the total number of rabbits in the newly discovered population in order to best decide what can be done.

"One of the things we'd like to do with the donation that Lindt has made to the Endangered Wildlife Trust is to do a structured survey of that southern area to get a better handle of the population in that area and to determine what needs to be done," said Mentzel.

The organisation is currently involved with a rehabilitation project to link fragmented habitats that will hopefully allow the rabbits to move between areas and breed in greater numbers.

"The main threat is around habitat fragmentation and degradation. So one of the big projects we have currently running is the riparian rehabilitation project which aims to rehabilitate that riparian zone along those river courses to try and connect habitat," she said.

The public can "adopt" a rabbit on the Endangered Wildlife Trust website.

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  • KZNcitizen - 2011-06-10 14:08

    Well done Lindt! More reason to buy your product.

  • KZNcitizen - 2011-06-10 14:09

    Well done Lindt! More reason to buy your excellent products! *****

  • nickwes - 2011-06-10 14:40

    Yes. I agree well done!

  • Sir Charles - 2011-06-10 15:07

    Shot one yesterday, only 299 left - no jokes, thought is looked different from other rabbits.

      The All Seeing Eye - 2011-06-10 15:10

      SHot a Sir Charles just a moment ago no jokes. Thought he looked like south africa's most wanted.

      onetickie - 2011-06-10 20:16

      And your point of bragging is????? And shooting any rabbit is????

      Willa - 2011-06-11 11:14

      and you are proud of that? Why would you want to shoot any rabbit for that matter? People like you make me sick.

  • The All Seeing Eye - 2011-06-10 15:12

    Good work Lindt

  • StBad - 2011-06-10 16:34

    A Swiss Chocolatier supporting endangered bunnies! I find that strangely amusing... but good on you Lindt!

      Grazy - 2011-06-12 21:42

      Think in the way off "The Lind Karoo paashaas". Good advertising the right way.

  • Colin - 2011-06-10 16:39

    Hmm and imagine if our friends from Shell ever get the go ahead to Frack in the Karoo. Well done to Lindt. Some great Corporate responsibility there. I will now make a point of buying Lindt, just as I now make a point of NEVER filling up at Shell.

      Grazy - 2011-06-12 21:42

      With you!!!!, let's start a club.

      Grazy - 2011-06-12 21:45

      Let,s make it the "Frack Shell, back Lindt" club.

  • Kikmi - 2011-06-10 16:57

    Maybe Lindt modelled their rabbit chocolates on these lil fellows :/ lol

  • onetickie - 2011-06-10 20:10

    The problem wild life, flora/fauna are faced with is mankind who have the unique ability to destroy anything beautiful and pristine.

  • guytheitguy2010 - 2011-06-11 03:15

    Baviaanskloof, there are loads below the pass, just go driving on a full moon nite..slowly

  • AndyMac - 2011-06-11 10:42

    I’ve had firsthand experience with the conservation of this animal during a development project in the Karoo. The main focus should remain the protection of its habitat however it is equally important to educate the locals living in the area where the rabbits our found. As part of our environmental awareness campaign I used photo’s of the riverine rabbit as a visual aid. I showed one group a photo and one guy responded “ek jag hom graag”.

      So What? - 2011-06-11 18:24

      ndy, sadly that is the problem. We just do not get to the locals who are not aware of the plight of certain species. Good on you and your company for doing this as part of your environmental awareness campaign.

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