This month, Andrew Tilker shines a spotlight on a little-known lagomorph from South-East Asia.
The rare and endemic Annamite striped rabbit of South-East Asia
Where does it live?
In the Annamite mountains on the border of Vietnam and Laos. It’s a very small mountain range, but it’s home to an incredible number of rangerestricted endemic species that very little is known about and that are highly threatened. Put those three things together and there’s really no other area on the planet like it, at least for mammals.
And this is no ordinary rabbit?
It’s really fantastic – short ears, short legs, tiger stripes and a reddish rump. It was only discovered in the 1990s when a colleague found one being sold in a market in Laos. There’s another striped rabbit in Sumatra, which is also secretive, mysterious and threatened. There’s nothing else like them.
What else lives in the region?
There’s the saola, a species of wild cattle that is one of the rarest mammals on the planet – it is very close to extinction. There are also several species of muntjac and a civet. These are just the endemic mammals. There are countless other things.
What’s the problem?
All these mammals have been hit very hard by hunting with wire snares. The level of snaring is almost incomprehensible, to the extent that many forests contain nothing larger than a rat or squirrel. I’d say there’s almost no subsistence hunting in Vietnam or Laos. This is about the rising middle class in Vietnam. The poaching supplies city restaurants. Our cameratrap surveys show that the rabbits are not on the verge of extinction like the saola, but they’re getting close.
What can be done?
We (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research with the co-operation of local people) are trying to understand where the Annamite striped rabbit occurs today and, together with local counterparts, we’re trying to protect these areas from snaring. Stuart Blackman
These little-known striped rabbits are found in forest habitats of Laos and Vietnam.