The term ‘bunny hugger’ is worn with pride by Endangered Wildlife trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme (EWT-DCP). This programme aims to establish Karoo riparian habitat management principles that are conducive to the conservation of the critically endangered riverine rabbit Bunolagus monticularis
and its threatened riparian ecosystem, whilst also developing socio-economic benefits for urban and rural communities.
EWT are offering a unique chance to participate in a ’hunt’ that is a little different, a little bit more fluffy, but nonetheless very exciting. Last year the EWR-DCP launched the very first trials to ‘hunt’ bunnies by using camera traps. These cameras are not only the key as to how many rabbits there are but are also an essential tool to understand how and why populations change over time, and how they utilise their habitat.
In just four nights of ‘hunting’ riverine rabbits with 15 cameras, 17 shots were captured. The cameras also show at what time of the night the rabbits are active. About 90% of the pictures were taken after 7:30 in the morning- it seems that these supposedly nocturnal bunnies like the early warm rays of the Karoo sun.
The programme has raised most of the funding and is to launch a full-scale study in the year to purchase cameras and support a full-time demography student. You can participate in ‘hunting’ rabbits in the Karoo by sponsoring a camera trap. You will receive regular updates on your camera’s captures and contribute significantly to the conservation of this species. Farmers are also encouraged to purchase their own camera trap to see whether they can pick up new sightings on their farms. Members of the public are also requested to report riverine rabbit sightings and any mortalities on the roads to the EWT-DCP.
The Karoo farmers are an integral part of the riverine rabbit conservation project. Since 1962, these farmers have been collaborating with conservation NGOs and the provincial conservation authorities to ensure the survival of the riverine rabbit. This collaboration is critical to the survival of the species, as all known populations occur outside formally protected areas.
The riverine rabbit is one of Southern Africa’s most threatened mammals and is listed as Critically Endangered. It is also a flagship species for the Karoo because any conservation actions protecting it and its habitat also benefit a range of species and biodiversity associated with the Karoo rivers. The riverine rabbit is a very special Karoo icon- it is endemic to the semi-arid Nama Karoo and parts of the Succulent Karoo.
The EWT-DCP is supported by the Altron Group, Lindt Chocolatiers, Mazda Wildlife Fund, rand Merchant Bank, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), and many individuals and farmers.