Rare Riverine Rabbit recorded
New records for the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit, are now available after a recent successful survey on Njalo Njalo Safari Farm near Touwsriver.
On the 10th and 11th of June, CapeNature’s Martin van Tonder and Corné Claassen from the Langeberg Area together with nature conservation students, Graca de Abreu and Ismail Wambi went on a night drive with the farm manager, following reported sightings on the property.
“Despite the extreme cold, the weather conditions and new moon phase were perfect. Searching with the spotlight for some time we managed to record five individual sightings between within space of two hours” says Martin. A GPS reading was recorded for each animal, including the capture and release and the collection of genetic samples.
The aim of the genetic sampling is to establish whether the recently discovered populations found in the Ceres Karoo and Klein Karoo area, are genetically distinct from the populations found in the Great Karoo. A 300km geographic barrier zone separates the two populations.
Riverine rabbits are very habitat-specific and are found in dense patches of riverine bush along seasonal rivers of the semi-arid central Karoo. They are the only indigenous burrowing rabbit in Africa and are dependent on deep and soft alluvial soils. To the south of the escarpment they are found in areas with sparse vegetation near seasonal rivers in both Succulent Karoo and Renosterveld vegetation.
“Although not an entirely a new discovery, finding five individuals in close proximity is rather exceptional. In the Karoo, the riverine rabbit acts as a flagship species, as its presence normally means the riparian habitat is likely to be in a good ecological condition,” Martin said.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust has established a Riverine Rabbit Programme to manage and coordinate the Riverine Rabbit Conservation Project, to maintain close relations with landowners and conservation authorities and to ensure the survival of the riverine rabbit and its habitat.