Vol 4. 2 April 2012

Mission of the Riverine Rabbit Programme

The Riverine Rabbit Programme, part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, has a vision: to maintain ecosystem conditions in the Karoo that can support a stable population of Riverine Rabbits along seasonal river courses, whilst simultaneously ensuring
socio-economic benefits to landowners and communities.

By Christy Bragg

Christy Bragg, EWT-RRP manager and spokesperson, has confirmed that thousands of Riverine Rabbits will be released all over South Africa this month! Fittingly, the release has already started and will continue over Easter. Members of the public are cautioned not to confuse these special bunnies with the possibly more famous, but rather common, Easter bunny. In order to avoid confusing these two rabbits, EWT-RRP partner Lindt have agreed to coat the Riverine Rabbits in gold. The EWT-RRP would like to encourage members of the public to purchase as many of these irresistably delicious chocolate bunnies as possible, thereby contributing to the conservation of their Critically Endangered cousins in the Karoo. Lindt will contribute 70c per Lindt gold bunny purchased towards the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Programme for the conservation of the Riverine Rabbit. The EWT-RRP would like to thank Lindt for this special sponsorship and encourage everybody to persuade their  friends, children and family to buy lots of bunnies. 
To keep up to date with the latest news and an exciting social media competition on the CSA LINDT RRP campaign, go to http://celebsa.com/savetheriverinerabbit.


The town was in a tizz last week...Pasella was coming to Loxton! The EWT-RRP were the most excited as we were going to be the film-stars!  On a fine Friday morning in March, Hester, one of our EWT-RRP nursery-staff, admirably got the upper hand of her initial stage-fright and did a great job of introducing Crystal, the Pasella presenter, to the EWT-RRP work done at the Indigenous Karoo Plant nursery. Crystal even used her nose to confirm the aptness of the name of the “Kerriebos” plant, which, yes, smells just like curry! Then that afternoon it was off to showcase the beautiful Riverine Rabbit habitat on the Moolmans’ farm Dunedin. Bonnie, reluctantly shedding hat and sunglasses in the mid-day Karoo sun (definitely above and beyond the call of duty, but given no choice by the Pasella director, Cara Penzhorn) walked Crystal through the habitat and shared some information on the Riverine Rabbits’ behaviour and ecology. Next Johnny Arends, EWT-RRP’s own rehab guru, demonstrated digging a micro-catchment, used on rehabilitation sites to trap water and reduce run-off to limit erosion. After a superb dinner made by Marietha Moolman, we went bunny-spotting. Armed with spotlights, an enthusiastic cameraman and lots of optimism, we spent the best part of 3 hours searching for Riverine Rabbits. Sadly, the Rabbits were nowhere to be seen, but we showed the Pasella crew photos to whet their appetites for next time! Remember to switch to SABC2 on the 4th and 8th April to watch us in action!


After Pasella had exhausted themselves filming the hardworking EWT-RRP, Christy, Johnny and Bonnie decided they were not too tired at 1am to go see if they themselves could spot a Rabbit. They wound their way slowly through the habitat, their hearts skipping beats each time they saw a pair of twitching ears in the spotlights, and lo and behold, Christy’s dream came true that night. She saw a Riverine Rabbit fleeing through the night, his brown tail bobbing clearly in front of her. Christy almost fell out the bakkie she was so excited. So now the conservation hots up and the passion levels have risen a notch! Keep reading for more exciting ventures from the EWT-RRP


The EWT-RRP have exciting news – we ran a one-week camera trap trial in late March with remote digital camera traps very kindly loaned to us by Jeremy Bolton (www.trailcamadventures.blogspot.com) and guess what!? In just four nights of testing 15 cameras in Riverine Rabbit habitat, we captured 17 images of Riverine Rabbits. This is incredible – even if this is all one rabbit being very nosey about the cameras (which I doubt), it shows us that the camera traps are a very pormising tool to use in future conservation work. We can now start working on estimating density using a camera trap array or grid that we will move around the Riverine Rabbit range. Besides the great research potential, these traps also give us information on what the Rabbits are eating, where they live, social interactions and even what eats them! The cameras also show what time of the night the rabbits are active in – and very interestingly, about 90% of the pictures of the Riverine Rabbits were taken after 7:30am in the morning – it seems the bunnies like the early warm rays of the Karoo sun!
We learnt a lot in this mini-trial, but now comes the twist – we need our own camera traps! If we are to develop this method to its full potential, we need at least 100 camera traps in order to sytematically conduct a comprehensive census over the entire Riverine Rabbit distribution range. With just 15 traps, we could survey the habitat of one population of rabbits; with 30 cameras we could survey new sites to locate previously unknown populations of Rabbits. So this is an early Easter call for Riverine Rabbit cameras. Please donate R2,700 for the purchase of a camera trap for the Riverine Rabbit Programme and we will establish a webpage for the perusal of your very own camera trap photographs! Donating a camera means you contribute to the conservation of this beautiful bunny whilst also getting to peruse from your lounge-chair what your very own Riverine Rabbit is doing that night. Take advantage of this opportunity to be part of the imminent unfolding of the dramatic discoveries awaiting within the Riverine Rabbit Programme!
May the Easter bunny come early this year! Please email christyb@ewt.org.za if you are interested in supporting our exciting camera trap study.


We are running a small competition here at EWT-RRP. Everybody, young and old, short or tall, conservationist or corporate, everybody is most welcome to enter. We are urgently looking for a cartoon drawing of a Riverine Rabbit for our logo for the Rabbit Runner newsletter. So please get your creative juices flowing and send us your original artwork - a simple but clear cartoon drawing of a Riverine Rabbit. It can be drawn as a caricature or as a very realistic Riverine Rabbit or even in an abstract way (such as my rather sad attempt at drawing a riverine bunny alongside), but it must be based on a Riverine Rabbit. It must be scanned in at a medium-high resolution and emailed to christyb@ewt.org.za or posted to: Rabbit Runner Logo Compeitition, Riverine Rabbit Programme, P.O. Box 172, Loxton, 6985. The main prize will be a gorgeous hamper of Lindt chocolates (see picture below), kindly provided by Lindt. There will also be exciting runner-up prizes for the children’s categories (toddlers up to 4 yrs) and youngsters (5-12yrs) and teenagers (13-19 yrs). The closing date for the competition is 30th November 2012.

Please forward this newsletter to all your friends and family or to anybody whom you think might be interested in reading more about the conservation work we are doing, or to people who might like to enter the Rabbit Runner Logo Competition.

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If you want this newsletter in Afrikaans, please let us know. So far we have only had 3 requests for the Afrikaans version!!

Head Office: Endangered Wildlife Trust, Private Bag X11, Modderfontein, Gauteng, 1645 (T) +27 11 3723600 (F) +27 11 6084682

Karoo Regional Office, Loxton: (tel/fax) 053 381 3068; Postal address:  P. O. Box 172, LOXTON, 6985, South Africa