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Riverine rabbit

Bunolagus monticularis


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

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 8.86 (?)
ED Score: 9.92 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


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.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Crops Livestock Hunting

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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