Known by its scientific name as Pentalagus furnessi, the Amami rabbit or short-eared rabbit is a species of lagomorph of the leporidae family. Former inhabitant of the entire Asian continent, it is currently located on two small islands in southern Japan. It is considered a living fossil, since it is one of the most primitive rabbits.
Curiosities about Amami’s rabbit
It measures about 50 centimeters and its very small ears quickly stand out in its physique, of less than 50 millimeters. It weighs about two or three kilos and its hair is brown, pulling reddish on the sides.
It is an animal of nocturnal habits and, like most rabbits, it is customary to build burrows.
Behavior and habitat
Amami’s rabbit lives in a very specific climate to which he has had to adapt. It is a humid subtropical climate, in a very small distribution area.
Tends to stay more active at night, to feed mainly. Their burrows are usually located in small valleys covered with forest mass. And the food they look for in 100-200 meters around. It feeds on more than 29 plant species, especially young shoots and fruits.
The entrance to the burrow is not always hidden by the vegetation, since there is little weed in the area where they live. They are usually horizontal or slightly oblique, between 10 and 20 centimeters high and 12-25 centimeters wide. And they run until they reach the main chamber, where they build a bed with tender leaves. In addition to underground burrows, they can use trees as shelter, hide under rocks, etc.
How does Amami’s rabbit communicate?
Amami’s rabbit has a fairly unique way of communicating. Hit the ground with the hind limbs to talk to your peers and even to scare intruders.
At sunset they peek into the entrance of the burrow and emit these noises and vocalizations, which can be heard throughout the valley.
The conservation of the Amami rabbit
Why do populations decline?
The populations of this little rabbit have not stopped decreasing in recent years:
- Deforestation operations on the Japanese islands have resulted in the reduction of the forest in which they inhabit 30% since 1980.
- On the other hand, the continuous invasions of the habitat by predators also influence the reduction of their populations.
- And finally, the introduction of the mongoose in these islands has led to the disappearance of numerous species of wildlife, including the Amami rabbit.
In search of a way to protect it, in 1921 Japan named Amami’s rabbit as a natural heritage. And since then, his hunt has been banned. But this prohibition has not been accompanied by any measures for the conservation of its habitat, so populations do not stop decreasing. The Amami rabbit is considered an endangered species on the IUCN Red List.
In order to conserve this species and the entire ecosystem of the Japanese islands where it lives, it is necessary to take urgent drastic measures. Measures aimed, above all, at the control of predators, the introduction of exotic species such as mongoose and habitat protection.
The IUCN group of specialists in lagomorphs also proposes other techniques, such as population monitoring programs. With these programs it is easier to know the dangers that the rabbit faces and, thus, put a solution. Not to mention the need to eradicate the mongoose from its range, to protect the entire ecosystem of the islands.
Conclusion: importance of keeping Amami’s rabbit
The Amami rabbit is a symbolic species of the humid subtropical forests of the Amami-Oshima and Tokuno-Shima islands, south of Japan. And that is where the importance of its conservation and protection of the entire ecosystem lies.
It is an evolutionary relic, a living fossil and, as such, must be preserved.
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Source of the main image | https://bioone.org/