Rare striped rabbits discovered in Central Highlands

July, 04/2021 - 08:27

The rare Annamite striped rabbit has been found in Bidoup- Núi Bà National Park (Bidoup NP), located just 20km from Đà Lạt City.

 

A camera trap photo of the rare Annamite striped rabbit . The species was found in Bidoup- Núi Bà National Park (Bidoup NP), located just 20km from Đà Lạt City. — Photo courtesy of Bidoup-Núi Bà National Park, the Southern Institute of Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

LÂM ĐỒNG — The rare Annamite striped rabbit has been found in Bidoup- Núi Bà National Park (Bidoup NP), located just 20km from Đà Lạt City.

The remarkable finding, which was made in September 2020 by Vietnamese and international scientists from the International Centre for Tropical Highlands Ecosystems Research of Bidoup NP, the Southern Institute of Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, and Global Wildlife Conservation, was recently reported by Mammalia, an international science journal.

According to Dr Lê Văn Hương, director of Bidoup NP, the discovery of this new population in the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng is important for the conservation of this highly-threatened species.

“For the next step, we will conduct extensive surveys with our partners to investigate the conservation status of the Annamite striped rabbit and which ecological factors are driving the occurrence of this species," Hương said.

“We are concerned that the decline of the population will lead to locality extinction of this only-known population of Annamite striped rabbits in the southern Annamites. We are also looking to implement conservation actions to protect this endemic species, as part of our efforts to protect the wider biodiversity that makes Bidoup-Núi Bà National Park so special,” he said.

Before this discovery, the species was only known to occur in the northern and central Annamites, and the new finding is almost 400km south of its previously known distribution, the report revealed.

The species is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List as a result of intensive snaring across its range.

The Annamite striped rabbit is one more addition to a long list of rare and threatened species that are found in Bidoup NP. The surveys also documented other endangered species, including large-antlered muntjac, Owston’s civet, and sun bear – making Bidoup Núi Bà National Park one of the most biodiverse protected areas in Việt Nam for mammal and bird species.

“We were really surprised to see Annamite striped rabbit on our camera traps,” said Dr Andreas Wilting, senior scientist of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

“Nobody thought that the species would turn up so far south from its presumed range. It shows how little is still known about the biodiversity of the Annamite forests.”

Lead researcher An Nguyen, a PhD student at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo, a German Academy Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship holder, and Wildlife Research and Associate Conservation Scientist with Global Wildlife Conservation, noted the importance of communicating this finding within Việt Nam.

“Many Vietnamese probably know the wildlife in Africa better than the wildlife in their home country. We need to change that so that people know how special the biodiversity in Việt Nam is, and why it is so important to protect these species.”

The scientists plan to follow up on the finding by conducting additional surveys to assess the population status and how genetically unique it is from other populations.

Tourists join a forest trek in the Bidoup- Núi Bà National Park in the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng. — Photo courtesy of Change 

Duy Lê from the Southern Institute of Ecology said: “We are working hard to get additional information on the new striped rabbit population. The upcoming genetic research and field surveys to assess the population status of the Annamite striped rabbit will provide important scientific-based information for planning and conducting conservation actions to protect this endemic species.”

According to the report, the Annamite striped rabbit is a little-known and endangered lagomorph endemic to the Annamites ecoregion of Việt Nam and Laos. The species’ known distribution extends from the northern to central Annamites.

The first records of the species from the southern Annamites and a significant southern range extension were made by a camera trap in the park

The Annamite striped rabbit was discovered in the mid-1990s from market specimens in Laos and formally described in 2000.

Since its discovery, biologists have begun to piece together basic aspects of the Annamite striped rabbit’s ecology and distribution, though knowledge gaps remain. All information indicates that the Annamite striped rabbit is restricted to wet evergreen forest with little or no prolonged dry season. Because of the rain shadow effect in the Annamites, most wet evergreen forest occurs on the eastern slopes of the mountain range and as a result, the majority of the animals are in Việt Nam.

The Annamite striped rabbit has been recorded as far north as Nghệ An Province and adjacent Bolikhamxay Province in Laos. The southernmost known records come from Quảng Nam Province and neighbouring parts of Sekong Province in Laos. — VNS