The riverine rabbit lives along seasonal rivers, in one of the few areas of the Karoo Desert, South Africa, suitable for conversion to agriculture – and as a result has lost virtually all its habitat to farming.
Less than 250 individuals survive, spread across fragmented subpopulations of no more than 50 in an area of less than 500km². The Riverine rabbits only produce one helpless young, in their burrows underground. This is extremely slow for rabbits who are notorious for very short generation times with large litters. Interestingly, rabbits that breed underground are more likely to produce more offspring, so for this species to do so and only produce one offspring a year is telling of the harsh environment it inhabits. It is estimated that the population declined by 60% or more over the last 70 years, and will decline by another 10% between 2002 and 2022. The loss and degradation of their habitat is the major threat to this species. 50-80% of habitat has been lost to cultivation and livestock farming – though they face direct threats from hunting, and accidental mortality in traps set for pest animals on farmlands.
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Family: Leporidae
- Population: 250 breeding pairs
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 33.7-46.9cm
- Weight: 1-1.5kg
Endemic to South Africa, occurring only in the central and southern regions of the Karoo Desert of South Africa’s Cape Province.
Habitat and Ecology
The riverine rabbit live among the dense riparian vegetation along the seasonal rives of the central and southern Karoo, depending on the fine alluvial soil of the floodplains, the only soil suitable for making stable burrows. They feed on wild flows and leaves from the riparian vegetation found along seasonal rivers in the Karoo Desert.