Easter pets bug this bunny hugger
People generally don’t complain about too many Easter eggs. Too many Easter bunnies, however, is a problem.
A Cape Town welfare group is battling to contain numbers of dumped rabbits.
The problem — caused partly by an Easter bunny craze — is worse this year because parents bought children rabbits as pets during the lockdown.
When the pets don’t live up to their cuddly reputation, many get dumped. “Colonies are popping up all over,” said Noordhoek Bunny Rescue’s Sian Huyser.
“Many who buy baby rabbits at Easter give them up for adoption around six to eight months later,” she said.
A similar problem existed in Durban and Johannesburg, and Huyser said the crux of the problem was a misconception that rabbits were cuddly pets, when they could be high maintenance.
“They don’t eat carrots all day and they are not cuddly. They are not kids’ pets,” she said. “They can be very destructive in the garden or home.
“This is seldom communicated to people buying them, which results in missed expectations. Rabbits then get dumped in parks because people feel they will be happier there. But they cannot fend for themselves and often get run over by cars or attacked by dogs.”
The result is large colonies of exotic rabbits ill-equipped for life in the wild, many of them in public spaces adjoining suburbs, such as a graveyard and a public open space near a dam in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.
“Concerned rabbit owners are going there themselves to feed and water those rabbits but they just see babies popping up all over the place,” said Huyser.
In the absence of foster homes, the rabbits are often culled, as 10,000 were on Robben Island a decade ago. The endangered riverine rabbit is the only indigenous species.
Noordhoek Bunny Rescue screens potential owners. “They can be rewarding pets but what we want to stop is people associating Easter with getting a rabbit,” Huyser said.