Top 10 EDGE species, the Sumatran rabbit, has been spotted for only the third time in the last 35 years.The distinctive striped rabbit was captured on camera by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researchers in Bukit Barisan National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The researchers captured the 30 cm long rabbit in late January using camera traps, cameras fitted with an infra-red beam that is triggered by movement as an animal passes by.
One of the world’s rarest species, the distinctive striped rabbit is known only from Sumatra’s rapidly disappearing rainforests. It was last photographed more than 7 years ago, and has not been seen by a scientist since 1972.
Classified as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Sumatran rabbit (Nesolagus netscheri) is thought to be most at risk from the conversion of its forest habitat to agriculture.
“This rabbit is so poorly known that any proof of its continued existence at all is great news, and confirms the conservation importance of Sumatra’s forests,” said Colin Poole, director of WCS’s Asia Program.
Back in 1999, researchers discovered another species of striped rabbit about a thousand miles away in the Annamite Mountains between Laos and Vietnam. They named it the Annamite striped rabbit Nesolagus timminsi. Genetic data suggest the two species are related, probably having diverged about eight million years ago.