A rare species of rabbit, found only on two Japanese islands, has been taken off Japan’s list of endangered species. The Amani black rabbit, Pentalagus furnessi, also known as the Ryukyu rabbit, has been protected by law for nearly 100 years. Unfortunately, such predators as cats, dogs and the Indian mongoose, as well as loss of habitat have taken their toll. Here are more details as provided by John R. Platt in the Scientific American.
The Telegraph did not mention why Japan removed the Amami rabbit from its endangered species list, which is usually a sign of population recovery. Japan’s Ministry of the Environment did not return requests for comment or information.
The Amami rabbit diverged from other Asian rabbits millions of years ago and has been described as a “living fossil.” It bears shorter ears and legs than most other rabbit species, as well as a longer snout and atypically dark black-red fur. Interestingly, the species does not have a tail. The Japanese rabbits are slightly larger than the average North American cottontail, reaching up to 50 centimeters long and 2 kilograms in weight. Behavior also sets them apart from many other species: they tend to live more solitary lives, rather than in large groups. Mother Amami rabbits even seal their young — which are only born once or twice a year, usually one “kitten” at a time — into underground dens, possibly to keep them safe from snakes. They appear to thrive only in either young or mature forests, both of which are increasingly lost to logging and commercial and residential development.
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Hoppington Post hopes that these rare Japanese rabbits have been removed from the endangered list because their population has grown to sufficiently large numbers. We look forward to more news about these fascinating creatures.