Camera traps count Karoo rabbit

The Riverine Rabbit is endemic to SA and critically endangered. (Eric Herrmann)
The Riverine Rabbit is endemic to SA and critically endangered. (Eric Herrmann)
Cape Town - Camera traps have been set up to assist in counting the elusive Riverine Rabbit which is endemic to the Karoo.

"The hard thing about the rabbit is that it's very difficult to find it; it's very difficult to detect how many there are," Christie Bragg of the Endangered Wildlife Trust told News24.

The rabbits (Bunolagus monticularis) also known as the Bushman Rabbit, occurs near rivers and habitat conservation is important because the animal relies on the vegetation near rivers or riverbeds to survive.

It is critically endangered and extremely shy, Bragg said.

"It's nocturnal, very shy, and lives in really thick thorny shrubs."

Method

In the survey to count the population, the EWT employed about 15 people try to scare the rabbits from the bush, but it wasn't a very effective method.

"Because they're so rare, obviously they're quite shy, they hide under the bushes and it's very difficult to get them to flush - to leave their bush. It's very difficult to count them if you can't see them," said Bragg.

The organisation set up camera traps in March and captured 17 pictures of rabbits in four nights. Although the EWT concedes on its website that it may the same rabbit photographed multiple times, it results show that rabbits are in the area and a more detailed survey will be taken.

"This is a method we can use to detect presence, at the very least, of rabbits. Now, I'm in the middle of a trial where I'm trying to use these traps to estimate density of the rabbits," Bragg said.

The plan is to set 30 camera traps in a 300ha site and, using a scientific method, determine the number of rabbits in the habitat.

"From that, we going to work out a methodology to determine density; from that we're going to start getting sponsorship for more cameras, and we're going to start shifting them around the habitat," said Bragg.

The public can sponsor cameras for the EWT and with a unique user name and password, a user can check the images captured by the camera.


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