Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi)

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Amami rabbit
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Amami rabbit fact file

Amami rabbit description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderLagomorpha
FamilyLeporidae
GenusPentalagus (1)

The Amami rabbit is a unique member of the rabbit family, having evolved in isolation over the millennia. The dense fur is dark brown, fading to reddish-brown on the sides and underbelly (4). These rabbits have a heavy body with short legs and small ears; their lack of tail is particularly distinctive (3). The claws are long and curved, reaching between 10 and 20 mm in length (3).

Size
Ear length: 4.5 cm (2)
Head-body length: 43 – 51 cm (2)
Weight
up to 2 kg (3)
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Amami rabbit biology

Very little is known about this ‘primitive’ member of the rabbit family. Unusually, the Amami rabbit is nocturnal, spending the day in simple dens dug into the heavy forest soil (3). Females give birth to a single offspring, although they may have two litters a year. The newborn rabbit is sealed into its rearing den whilst its mother forages for food; she only returns every two nights, excavating the den in order to nurse her young before sealing the hole again (3). Around 4 – 7 weeks later, the den is no longer sealed and the young rabbit will accompany its mother on her feeding trips (3).

Amami rabbits feed on a range of plants and fruits; particularly pampas grass in the summer months (4). Individuals are predominantly solitary and follow well-worn tracts through the forest undergrowth on their nightly foraging trips (3).

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Amami rabbit range

Endemic to the Ryukyu Archipelago of Japan, this rabbit is only known from the islands of Amami and Tokunoshima (1).

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Amami rabbit habitat

Inhabits forested areas from dense old-growth forest to more disturbed areas (4).

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Amami rabbit status

Classified as Endangered (EN – A2b, B1+2bce, C1) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Amami rabbit threats

Widespread habitat degradation has recently occurred on these islands and it is estimated that as little as 5% of the forest cover of 1981 remains (1). In addition, predation by introduced mammalian predators such as dogs, cats and mongooses poses a further threat to the survival of this species (4). Mongooses were introduced in the 1980s in an attempt to control the number of habu pit vipers (Trimeresurus flavoviridis) on the island; they have however, devastated other species’ populations instead (3).

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Amami rabbit conservation

The Amami rabbit is classified as a Japanese National Monument and as such receives protection from hunting and capture (3). However, habitat loss is currently the major threat to the survival of this rare species and the protection of remaining forests will be the key to securing the future of both this unique rabbit and other members of Amami’s natural heritage (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To learn about efforts to conserve the Amami Rabbit see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2003)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Brazil, M. (2001) The rabbit that time forgot. BBC Wildlife Magazine, 19(2): 22 –28.
  4. Animal Diversity Web (June, 2003)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/pentalagus/p._furnessi.html
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Image credit

Amami rabbit  
Amami rabbit

© Hiromitsu Katsu

Hiromitsu Katsu
For more information please contact Fumio Yamada
Japan
fumio@ffpri.affrc.go.jp

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