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riverine rabbit

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Riverine rabbit – bunolagus monticularis

We don’t even know if this beautiful little creature exists in our part of the Little Karoo.  Listed on the Wildlife Critically Endangered List in 2002, it is said to be the 13th most endangered mammal in the world!


riverine rabbitn- bunolagus

riverine rabbit


Bunolagus monticularis – (and now we know why rabbits are called ‘bunnies’!)

Afrikaans : Oewerkonyn, Doekvoetjie, Vleihaas, Boshaas;
Historical name: Pondhaas


Thought to be not more than a few hundred still living in the wild in unprotected areas and privately owned lands, the fact that small isolated populations were discovered near Barrydale, Montagu, Touwsrivier, Klaarstroom and Prince Albert in 2003 has given hope that there may still be other isolated groups elsewhere in the Little Karoo.

Endemic to the semi arid regions of the Great Karoo and parts of the Little Karoo, it occurs only in dense riverine scrub in the alluvial floodplains of perennial and seasonal rivers. The Riverine Rabbits’ ever diminishing numbers and extinction in certain areas is a reflection of the degradation of the riverine eco-systems. Human interference has played a critical part – and locals, hunting the river banks with packs of dogs, are sadly still encountered.

This is the only African rabbit where the female prepares an underground burrow lined with grass and fur, for her young.

Being nocturnal they rest during the day and browse at night. Their diet consists mainly of flowers and leaves with some succulent grasses in the rainy season.

They have very clear distinguishing features:

  • dark brown stripe along the lower jaw towards the ear base
  • white eye-ring
  • red-brown nuchal patch behind ears
  • long ears
  • upperparts dark brown and black flecked
  • underparts light brown (no white)
  • uniformly brown tail

The Drylands Conservation Programme is doing sterling work in trying to save these animals, and should you see what you believe to be a Riverine Rabbit, please contact them right away.

Should you come across a carcass in the veld or on a road somewhere please keep the carcass refrigerated (don’t freeze it) and contact Drylands Conservation Programme immediately. Any sample of the species they can obtain for genetic analyses is vital. (But please do not kill any rabbit for this purpose).

Please also help increase awareness of this unique mammal and its threatened habitat in South Africa by informing your family, friends and colleagues.

Christy Bragg: Riverine Rabbit Programme Manager