Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wild at Heart: The Rabbit

Over the next week, I will be bringing you previews of the work that will be exhibited at May 26th's "Wild at Heart: Keep Wildlife in the Wild," the endangered species benefit that Andrew Hosner and I are co-curating at Thinkspace. 20% of the proceeds of the show will go to Born Free USA to help threatened wildlife. Hope to see you there!

Darla Jackson "The Party's Over" sculpture

Though rabbits are renowned for their reproductive capabilities and can become an invasive agricultural pest if introduced to areas with no predators, they are an essential part of the natural order in many places. Efforts to eradicate rabbits from their native habitat can lead to a collapse of the food chain. In the 1950s, a widespread rabbit control program was begun that proved to be terribly effective. A deadly virus called myxomatosis was deliberately introduced into rabbit populations in Australia, France and England, resulting in the total collapse of the rabbit population, which was reduced to 5% of its former size within five years. Not only does the virus cause a cruel, painful death for rabbits, it has also led to the near-extinction of several predators that depended on them for food, such as the Iberian Lynx and the Spanish Imperial Eagle.

Though the European Rabbit and the American Cottontail are still numerous, there are several rabbit species that are nearing extinction due to habitat loss and hunting. The mouselike Volcano Rabbit, which lives in the mountains of Mexico, has seen its population reduced to about 1,000. South Africa’s Bushman Rabbit, which bears only one or two kits each year, has been reduced to about 200 individuals. The Sumatran Striped Rabbit, only found in the forests of the Barisian Mountains, is approaching total extinction. The unusual Amami Rabbit, which is isolated to two small islands in Japan’s Ryukyu Archipelago, is considered a “living fossil,” as it closely resembles the way rabbits looked five million years ago. Though it was declared a Japanese Natural Monument in 1921, it is still severely threatened by habitat loss.

Jacub Gagnon "Atlas"

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