Amami Rabbit

amami_rabbit

Photo Credit: Patrick Miller

The Amami rabbit can only be found on Amami and Tokuno, two small, forested islands in the Japanese archipelago. Here, this unique rabbit has been frozen in time, a living remnant of ancient rabbits that once frequented the Asian mainland. Small ears, small eyes, long, curved claws, a diminutive tail, and an elongated snout set the Amami rabbit apart from others in its family. They can weigh up to 6 pounds, and the females are usually larger than the males.

The Amami rabbit is secretive, and primarily solitary. They are active at night, remaining hidden during the day in small crevices or tunnels. On their nightly foraging journeys, they will follow often used and well-worn paths through their rain forest habitat. These rabbits prefer to live in areas near waterways, and they have been observed swimming. Their diet consists largely of Pampas grass in the summer and acorns in the winter.

The Amami rabbit breeds slowly, giving birth to one or two offspring per litter, and only reproducing once or twice a year. The kits are hidden in a burrow, which is only visited at night. The mother suckles her babies, and then conceals the entrance to the burrow with dirt and debris, tamping everything down with her front paws. This behavior can be seen in this video. The mother will visit this burrow infrequently; according to some accounts only once every other night. Once the kits have reached 4 to 7 weeks of age, they will follow their mother from the den, and it will no longer be used.

When approaching a nesting den, the mother Amami rabbit will call to her young, letting them know that she is near. Calls are also used when a predator has been detected. These shrill squeaks sound much like the vocalization of a pika, to which rabbits are closely related. Amami rabbits will also communicate by stamping their hind feet, which indicates danger.

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