Rare Vietnamese rabbit on verge of extinction?

London, June 4 (IANS) The Annamite Striped Rabbit, a rare species found in the forests of Laos and Vietnam, was recently spotted by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The rabbit was first documented by rabbit expert Diana Bell and colleagues from the UEA in the journal Nature in 1999. It has rarely been seen since.

Researcher Sarah Woodfin, who is studying for a Masters in Applied Ecology and Conservation at UEA, set out on a three-month expedition to track the recently-discovered rabbit and study its habitat.

“It is genetically very distinct from other rabbit species. Sadly there is a possibility that this species could be at risk of extinction due to deforestation and hunting,” she said.

“I didn’t expect that I would ever see one up close. I certainly never expected that I would have the opportunity to hold one of these magnificent animals. I was utterly delighted,” she said of the encounter.

“My team and I encountered the rabbit completely by chance on the first night of my trip. It was found hopping along a stream bank eating vegetation. One of my team members managed to catch it and brought it back to camp, where we were all able to have a good look at it,” she added.

“The rabbit was very handsome, with dark stripes against a pale gold background and a red rump. We were able to take some measurements and photographs before we released it back into the forest,” Woodfin said.

Images of the rabbit had previously been caught by motion sensitive ‘camera traps’.

“It is extremely important that we understand as much as possible about this species so that we can evaluate its conservation status and implement appropriate conservation measures,” Woodfin said.

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