The volcano rabbit is one of the smallest rabbit species in the world and is found only on four volcanoes in Mexico.
It lives mostly above ground using runways made by the movement of animals. It is a crepuscular species, meaning it is most active at twilight, although it has been known to be active during the day if the weather is overcast.
The volcano rabbit diverged from the common European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) 40 million years ago and is the only species in its genus.
This species is threatened by habitat destruction caused by livestock grazing and agriculture, logging and human initiated forest fires. Urban expansion is also a major threat as the range of this species exists within 45 minutes of one of the world’s largest cities, Mexico City, and habitat fragmentation caused by roads can increase the risk of extinction from genetic isolation. Habitat loss has been estimated at 15-20% over the last three generations.
The volcano rabbit is listed under Appendix I of CITES and Mexican law states hunting of this species is illegal, although it is not enforced. Its range occurs within two national parks, but hunting, grazing and grass burning still persists.
Future conservation should focus on education, enforcement of hunting bans and effective habitat management.
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Family: Leporidae
- Population: 2,478 - 12,120
- Trend: increasing
- Size: 27-36cm
- Weight: 400-500g
This species is endemic to Mexico and is found in discontinuous patches on four volcanoes spanning 386km². It occurs at altitudes between 2800m and 4250m, although it is most abundant between 3150m and 3400m.
Habitat and Ecology
The volcano rabbit is found in subalpine habitats containing bunchgrass and pine and they feed on young leaves of grasses and some spiny herbs. They have a peak breeding season in warm rainy months, with a gestation time of 40 days.