Sunday, 8 July 2012

Volcano Rabbit

  The volcano rabbit also known as teporingo or zacatuche (Romerolagus diazi) is a small rabbit that resides in the mountains of Mexico. It is the world's second smallest rabbit, second only to the pygmy rabbit. It has small rounded ears, short legs, and short, thick fur and weighs approximately 390–600 g(0.86 - 1.3 lb). It has a life span of approx.7 to 9 years. The volcano rabbit lives in groups of 2 to 5 animals in burrows (underground nests) and runways among grass tussocks. The burrows an be as long as 5m (16') and as deep as 40 cm (1.3'). There are usually 2 to 3 young per litter, born in the borrows.

   Unlike many species of rabbits (and similar to pikas), the volcano rabbit utters very high-pitched sounds instead of thumping its feet on the ground to warn other rabbits of danger. It is nocturnal and is highly active during twilight, dawn and all times in between. As of 1969, there were 1000 to 1200 in the wild.


Habitat

 

The volcano rabbit lives in Mexico. The rabbit has been pushed into areas on the slopes of the Iztaccíhuatl, Pelado, Popocatepetl, and Tlaloc volcanoes. The volcano rabbit is generally found between elevations of 2800 m and 4250 m in pine forests with a dense undergrowth of bunch grass and rocky terrain called the transverse neovolcanic axis.

Diet

 

The volcano rabbit feeds on green leaves in zacaton grasses, the undeveloped leaves of spiny herbs and the bark of alder trees. During the rainy season, it will also eat oats and corn from crops.

Decline

 

The most serious threats to the volcano rabbit are habitat degradation and target shooting. Hunters looking for game birds (such as quail) will use the rabbit for target practice. The people living in the mountains consider it vermin to be killed off. Neither the hunters or the natives eat the volcano rabbit.

Habitat management

 

The IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group has created an action plan for this rabbit (Fa & Bell, 1990). The plan focuses upon the need to manage the burning and overgrazing of the zacaton habitats and to enforce laws prohibiting the capture, sale and hunting of the animal. Studies are recommended into the geographical range, habitat relationships, population dynamics and life history (Fa & Bell, 1990). In addition, habitat restoration and the establishment of zacaton corridors to link core areas of habitat are needed. Captive breeding colonies exist at Jersey Zoo, UK and Chapultepec Zoo, Mexico City (Olney & Ellis, 1993).