Sumatran Striped Rabbit
(Nesolagus netscheri)
The distinctive brown stripes on the face and body of this rabbit enable it to blend perfectly with its rainforest habitat. In fact, this shy nocturnal animal is so rare and well hidden that local people do not have a name for it in their own language and many do not even realise that it exists. No living animals have been seen or studied by scientists since the 1930s, and it was presumed extinct until it was accidentally photographed in 1998. It was captured on camera again in 2007 but remains one of the rarest and most elusive mammals on the planet. Occasional anecdotal reports of the species from forest clearing projects (which are also the biggest threat to their existence) are the only indication that it still survives today.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Surveys to determine population size, distribution and habitat requirements.
Indonesia (Sumatra).
Associated Blog Posts
11th Jun 12
The distinctive brown stripes on the face and body of the Sumatran rabbit (Nesolagus netscheri) enable it to blend perfectly with its rainforest habitat....  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
The order Lagomorpha contains two families, the Ochotonidae (pikas) and Leporidae (rabbits and hares). These families are thought to have diverged during the late Eocene, 35-38 million years ago. The Leporidae comprises two groups: the jackrabbits and hares of the genus Lepus, and the rabbits in the remaining ten genera. Recent molecular data indicates that most rabbit and hare genera arose from a single rapid diversification event during the Miocene (between 12 and 16 million years ago). The Sumatran rabbit was believed to be monotypic (the only species in its genus) until the mid 1990s when a similar striped rabbit (Nesolagus timinsi) was discovered in the rainforests along the Annamite Mountains, which separate Laos and Vietnam. Genetic data suggests that the two species may have diverged about eight million years ago.
Head and body length: 368-417 mm
Tail length: 17 mm
Ear length: 43-45 mm
Weight: Unknown
Roughly the same size as a European rabbit, the Sumatran rabbit is generally grey with distinctive brown stripes running down the face and body. The soft dense fur is white on the underbelly and reddish on the rump. The tail is very small and the species has shorter ears than most other rabbits.
There is very little information on the ecology of this species, as it has never been studied in the wild. It is known to be completely nocturnal, hiding during the day in dark places at the base of trees, holes in the ground, or burrows dug and deserted by other animals. There is no evidence that it digs its own burrows. The rabbit is shy and slow-moving and does not feed in openings or clearings. Its diet consists of leaves and stalks from plants which form the forest understorey.
The rabbit lives in dense montane forests on rich volcanic soil. Most records are from when forest was felled to form coffee or tea estates at altitudes of 600-1600 m.
Occurs in the Barisan Mountains in west and southwest Sumatra, Indonesia. The species was recorded in Gunung Leuser National Park in northwest Sumatra in 1972, and possibly sighted in Mount Kerinci National Park in 1978. The rabbit’s habitat lies within the Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspot, which is home to at least 13 other Critically Endangered species.
Population Estimate
Unknown, but probably very rare. A survey of Sumatra in 1984 located only three places where local people knew of rabbits, but in one case there may have been confusion with feral European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and in another the forest had been cleared by 1989.
Population Trend
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR B1+2abcde, C2a) on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was thought to be extinct until it was accidentally photographed by a camera trap in 1998. Even now it is considered the world’s rarest rabbit and is in grave danger of becoming extinct as the population is so low.
The main threat is loss of its forest habitat for cultivation, especially tea and coffee plantations. Low levels of hunting may also occur, but the species occurs at such low densities and in such remote areas that local people rarely go to the effort of trying to find it.
Conservation Underway
The species is listed on Appendix I of CITES. Surveys were carried out in 1983, 1984 and 1989, all of which failed to find any direct evidence of the species. A five-year conservation project was designed in 1979 and submitted to the IUCN/WWF but there were insufficient funds at the time to implement the programme. Some Sumatran rabbits are thought to occur in Mount Kerinci Seblat, which was declared a National Park in 1982. A conservation action plan exists for this species but has not been implemented.
Conservation Proposed
According to the IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group, the discovery of a viable population of Sumatran rabbits and its protection is the first necessary step. This should be followed by a thorough survey to determine the status of the rabbit in other existing reserves, and in the remaining unreserved forest habitat. If any viable populations are found, it will be necessary to carry out detailed studies on the habitat requirements of the species in order to develop an appropriate management plan.

Flux, J. E. C. 1990. The Sumatran Rabbit Nesolagus netscheri. In: Chapman, J.A. & Flux, J.E.C. (eds.). Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. pp: 137-139.

Meijaard, E. & Sugardjito, J. 2008. Nesolagus netscheri. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 June 2012.

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

SSC Newsletter no. 42. (July-Dec 2004).

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

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