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Caprolagus hispidus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA LAGOMORPHA LEPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Caprolagus hispidus
Species Authority: (Pearson, 1839)
Common Name(s):
English Hispid Hare, Assam Rabbit
French Lapin De L'Assam
Spanish Conejo De Assam
Taxonomic Notes: There are no recognized subspecies of Caprolagus hispidus (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Maheswaran, G. & Smith, A.T.
Reviewer(s): Boyer, A.F. & Johnston, C.H. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Justification:
Caprolagus hispidus exists in an area of occupancy of less than 500 km², in highly fragmented habitats. The species is experiencing continuing decline in suitable habitat area due to increasing agriculture, flood control, and human development (Bell et al. 1990, Maheswaran 2002, Jordan et al. 2005).
History:
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Knowledge of the distribution of C. hispidus has always been limited. The historic range of the species extended along the foothill region of the southern Himalayas from Uttar Pradesh through southern Nepal, the northern region of West Bengal to Assam, and into Bangladesh as far south as Dacca (Bell et al. 1990). The current distribution in South Asia is sporadic, including the countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and possibly Bhutan (Jordan et al. 2005). The extent of occurrence of C. hispidus is estimated to be between 5,000 and 20,000 km², and the area of occupancy is estimated to be between 11 and 500 km², in highly fragmented populations (Jordan et al. 2005). It occurs at elevations ranging from 100-250 m (Jordan et al. 2005).
Countries:
Native:
Bangladesh; India (Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal); Nepal
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: During the mid-1960s there was speculation that C. hispidus had gone extinct, however, the capture of a live specimen in 1971 in the Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary, northwest Assam, confirmed that the species was persisting (Maheswaran 2002). Though there is no information available on exact number of individuals in any areas of the range of C. hispidus, little doubt exists that the species has experienced a dramatic decline due to habitat loss in recent years (Bell et al. 1990).

Nowhere within the range is the population of C. hispidus well above satisfactory levels, but in some places, such as Dudwa National Park in northern Uttar Pradesh and Jaldapara Wildlife sanctuary in northern Wets Bengal, fresh as well as old fecal pellets of C. hispidus can be found in abundance (Maheswaran 2002). Taking into consideration the degree of habitat (tall and wet grassland habitat in places) fragmentation, chances are very remote that the species can disperse freely, especially during flooding and grassland burning during the dry season (Maheswaran pers. comm.). The number of individuals occurring in these two areas is currently unknown.

Density of C. hispidus in suitable habitat (unburned tall grassland) is 1/1,470 m² (Bell et al. 1990).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: C. hispidus primarily occupies tracts of early successional tall grasslands, locally termed elephant grass (Bell et al. 1990). During the dry season, most grassy areas are subject to burning, and the rabbits take refuge in marshy areas or grasses adjacent to river banks that are not susceptible to burning (Bell et al. 1990).

The limited information available on reproduction indicates that C. hispidus probably has a small average litter size (Bell et al. 1990). It exhibits crepuscular behaviour (Jordan et al. 2005).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is locally harvested (Jordan et al. 2005).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The primary threat to C. hispidus populations is habitat loss, caused by encroaching agriculture, logging, flood control, and human development (Bell et al. 1990). The natural spatial and temporal dynamics of the tall grassland habitat, particularly the fire cycles, are key important to the conservation of this species (Bell et al. 1990, Maheswaran 2002).

The natural process of succession of grassland into woodlands reduces suitable habitat for grassland specialists such as C. hispidus. Thus, the elephant grass habitat occupied by the species is highly fragmented, and often intersected by forests, streams, and rivers (Maheswaran 2002).

The decline (quantitative and qualitative) of 20-50% in suitable habitat has occurred since 1994 and is expected to continue at this rate through 2014 (Jordan et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: C. hispidus is listed in CITES Appendix I, in India it is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, and in Nepal it is listed in Schedule I of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Measures Act of 1973 (Bell et al. 1990, Jordan et al. 2005). It has been nationally listed in India as Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,iv) due to restricted area of occupancy, few and fragmented locations, with major threats affecting habitat area and quality (Jordan et al. 2005). In Nepal, it has been nationally listed as Critically Endangered B1ab(ii,iii,iv)+2ab(ii,iii,iv) due to restricted extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, single location with major threats affecting habitat area and quality (Jordan et al. 2005).

C. hispidus has records of occurring in several protected areas, including Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, Royal Bardia Wildlife Reserve, Dudwa National Park, Royal Chitwan National Park, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Kahna National Park, and Barnodi Wildlife Sanctuary (Maheswaran 2002, Jordan et al. 2005). A survey conducted in 2001 found no evidence of the presence of C. hispidus in Buxa Tiger Reserve, where it had been reported as occurring it the 1980s (Maheswaran 2002).

Long term research is needed to examine effects of threats such as burning, harvesting, and livestock grazing, as well as studies of ecology, reproduction, and movement patterns during flood and burning seasons (Bell et al. 1990, Maheswaran 2002). Control of the burning season within the range of C. hispidus is needed to ensure that suitable habitat is available throughout the year, as well as the development of management plans for the remaining areas of suitable grassland habitat (Bell et al. 1990). Forest managers should be encouraged in the fostering of local species of grass and avoid the introduction of alien species for use by camp elephants (Maheswaran 2002). A return to the natural system would help prevent the extirpation of C. hispidus, as well as other native species (Maheswaran 2002). Local education regarding the status of C. hispidus is necessary, including educating staff of reserves where C. hispidus occurs (Maheswaran 2002). Forest guards are often only aware of Lepus nigricollis and should be educated in the areas of active preservation of the threatened species (Maheswaran 2002)

Citation: Maheswaran, G. & Smith, A.T. 2008. Caprolagus hispidus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 26 July 2014.
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