Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Volcano rabbit declared extinct due to lost habitat

A species of rabbit endemic to Mexico has been declared extinct in the vicinity of the Nevado de Toluca, a volcano in México state.

Researchers from the Center for Biological Sciences at the Autonomous University of the State of México (UAEM) concluded that the volcano rabbit is extinct after carrying out an exhaustive study in 2017.

The disappearance of the species, also known as teporingo or zacatuche, serves as a wake-up call to humanity about the failure to conserve the volcano rabbit’s habitat, the researchers said in an article published by the National Autonomous University news portal UNAM Global.

A lot of the species’ habitat has been lost due to the clearing of forest for agricultural purposes, especially the cultivation of potatoes, but increasing urbanization has also played a role in the rabbit’s decline.

The teporingo, the world’s second smallest rabbit after the pygmy rabbit, has been considered endangered since 1966 and several studies carried out in the 1980s, ‘90s and the first decade of this century warned of its likely extinction.

It was officially listed as an at-risk species in 1994, said Esther Quintero Rivero, an official at the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio).

The same year, Alejandro Velázquez and Francisco J. Romero published a book entitled El Conejo Zacatuche, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de la Ciudad de México (The Zacatuche Rabbit, so far from God and so close to Mexico City) that outlined an ambitious management plan for the species but almost a quarter of a century later it hasn’t been adopted in México state, said UAEM biologist Alma Abigail Luna Gil.

The last confirmed sighting of the species at Nevado de Toluca occurred in August 2003 when just a single volcano rabbit was observed.

Quintero said that the loss of the teporingo rabbit would cause a range of problems in the ecosystem, while UAEM researcher Octavio Monroy Vilchis said that studies have already confirmed that the presence of other vertebrates in the Nevado de Toluca area is declining.

Source: El Financiero (sp) 

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