Volcano Rabbit, Romerolagus diazi

The volcano rabbit (Romerolagus diazi), known locally as zacatuche or teporingom, is a species of rabbit that can be found in Mexico. This species resides near four volcanoes within its range, including El Pelado, but its range is limited to only sixteen small areas. The majority of individuals reside at higher elevations grasslands or in pine and alder forests.

The volcano rabbit reaches an average weight of up to 1.3 pounds and is the second smallest species of rabbit next to the pygmy rabbit. This species can range in color from brown to black and has short ears and rounded ears. Its physical features are thought to give it enough speed to escape predators in areas with abundant cover, but in open areas, it cannot reach high enough speeds to escape. It prefers to reside in groups between two and five individuals and will dig burrows or live in runways constructed from vegetation. After breeding, females are pregnant for thirty-nine to forty-one days. The diet of this species consists mainly of grasses, many of which are consumed as supplements. These grasses are consumed during warmer rainy months, while thicker plants like shrubs are consumed during the winter.

The volcano rabbit has experienced major habitat loss due to changes in climate, vegetation, and other factors. Current threats to this species include habitat loss caused by human intrusion including urban growth, logging, and illegal hunting. Although captive breeding programs have been enacted to help protect this species, they have resulted in a limited gene pool. Suggested conservation efforts include habitat conservation and education. The volcano rabbit currently appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.”

Image Caption: Romerolagus diazi in Chapultepec zoo, México city. Credit: dispale/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)