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Lepus capensis

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA LAGOMORPHA LEPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Lepus capensis
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English Cape Hare, Desert Hare, Arabian Hare, Brown Hare
French Lievre Du Cap, LIÈVRE DU CAP
Spanish LIEBRE DEL CABO
Taxonomic Notes: Generally, the entire taxonomy of L. capensis throughout its range is unclear. Taxonomic review of the species is urgently needed; otherwise, it is possible that some forms may go extinct before they are formally identified.

Hoffmann and Smith (2005) restrict L. capensis to the South African distribution, citing no evidence of gene flow between the southern and northern ranges. A list of synonyms is provided based on four geographic locations (South Africa, East Africa, Arabia and Near East, and northwest Africa), which are informal subdivisions of L. capensis sensu lato. The authors suggested that these four groups might represent distinct species. In the Near East and Arabia L. c. arabicus; in South Africa L. c. aquilo, L. c. carpi, L. c. granti; East Africa L. c. aegyptius, L. c. hawkeri, L. c. isabellinus, L. c. sinaiticus; and L. c. atlanticus, L. c. schulmbergeri, L. c. whitakeri in northwest Africa (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).

According to Harrison and Bates (1991) there are 8 subspecies in Arabia: L. c. syriacus (Syria, Lebanon, northern Israel); L. c. sinaiticus (southern Israel, Sinai); L. c. connori (east of the Euphrates in Iraq); L. c. arabicus (western Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen); L. c. cheesmani (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, Oman); L. c. omanensis (UAE, Oman); L. c. atallahi (Bahrain, Qatar?); L. c. jefferyi (Masirah Island, Oman). The taxonomic status of L. c. jefferyi needs clarification, as it may represent a good species. Hares present in Qatar also require taxonomic investigation.

The taxonomic position of the Sardinian Hare is unresolved. Hoffmann and Smith (2005) include the Sardinian Hare as one of the unassigned synonyms L. mediterraneus Wagner, 1841 or typicus Hilzheimer, 1906, in L. granatensis. Analysis of the mtCR-1 sequence indicated that Sardinian Hares form a monophyletic clade with North African Hares (Scandura et al. 2007). A phylogenetic analysis of mtCR-1 sequences from Tunisian and Egyptian Hares characterized them as monophyletic and separate from L. capensis (Ben Slimen et al. 2006). However, a study of the nuclear gene pool of L. capensis, L. europaeus and the North African Hare indicated that the North African Hare as well as L. europaeus belong to L. capensis (Ben Slimen et al. 2005), supporting Petter's (1959, 1961) hypothesis of the inclusion of L. europaeus in capensis. Ben Slimen et al. (2008a) suggest that in a case such as the genus Lepus, where evolution is "rapid and to some extent reticulate", species designation based solely on mtDNA is misleading without examination of the nuclear gene pool. Ben Slimen et al. (2008a) has shown that genetic differentiation between L. capensis and L. europaeus could be attributed to geographic distance rather than divergence. They speculate that gene flow may be occurring in the Near East where distributions meet resulting in the potential for intergraded populations. However, Ben Slimen et al. (2008b) propose that "a combined phylogenetic, phylogeographic, and population genetic approach,…, based on various nuclear and mitochondrial markers and including other biological characters, such as phenotypic and morphometric data," is needed for conclusive evidence of a single species complex. In light of this continuing uncertainty regarding the taxonomic status of the Sardinian and North African Hares, both will remain included in capensis and L. europaeus retains its taxonomic status as a distinct species.

Many treatments indicate that the range of L. capensis extends into China, Mongolia and Russia; however, recognition of L. tibetanus and L. tolai as distinct species removes consideration of L. capensis as occurring in this region (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Drew, C., O'Donovan, D., Simkins, G., Al Dosary, M., Al Khaldi, A.M., Mohammed, O.B., Al Nuaimi, A.S.M., Al Mutairi, M.S., Al Habhani, H.M., Sami Amr, Z., Qarqas, M. & Abu Baker, M.A.
Reviewer(s): Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Justification:
This is a widespread species, with a large population, whose decline does not qualify it for listing as a threatened species. In the southern extent of the African distribution population declines have been noted, but it has been described as a less than 10% decline since 1904 and expected to continue at this rate until 2104 (Kryger et al. 2004).
History:
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The geographic range (in Arabia) includes isolated populations scattered across the entire peninsula and extends east into India. It is also found on the islands of Sardinia and Cypress. Geographic range in Africa is extensive and separated into two distinct regions of non-forested areas (Boitani et al. 1999). The southern extent of occurrence includes the following countries: South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern portions of Angola, Mozambique, and Zambia (Boitani et al. 1999). The northern extent of occurrence includes: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Chad, Niger, Tunisia, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Senegal.
Countries:
Native:
Algeria; Bahrain; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Chad; Cyprus; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy (Sardegna); Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Lesotho; Libya; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tanzania, United Republic of; Tunisia; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Western Sahara; Yemen; Zimbabwe
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are no figures available on population size of L. capensis. Even in UAE, the population is highly variable and is dependent entirely on habitat availability - both for feeding and for sheltering from the summer sun. Population trends for the Arabian distribution are characterized as declining at a rate of less than 20% (Drew et al. 2004). There is concern regarding the current population status of L. capensis on islands in the Persian Gulf, specifically Masirah Island and Bahrain.

In the southern region of its African range, there is a current and an anticipated "slow rate of population decline," with total population number for this species currently at greater than 10,000 individuals (Kryger et al. 2004). The predicted rate of decline is 10% until the year 2104 (Kryger et al. 2004). No population information was available for the northern African region of this species.

Although characterized as locally common, the population on Sardinia has been experiencing a decline (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The following information applies to L. capensis on the Arabian Peninsula. This species breeds all year round, with one or two offspring in each litter. L. capensis prefers shrubs, rather than grasses, to shelter under in summer. However, whether this is a limiting factor or not is not known. L. capensis has experienced habitat loss since the 1950's resulting from urbanization, overgrazing, agricultural encroachment and infrastructure related to tourism (Drew et al. 2004). It has been noted that pastureland that has been overgrazed by domestic livestock is favored (Flux and Angermann 1990).

In Africa, it is commonly associated with open habitats (Boitani et al. 1999). Reproduction varies according to location (Happold pers. comm.). Equatorial expanses have a year-round breeding season, with up to eight litters per year and 1.3-2.0 young per litter (Flux 1981). In Kenya, L. capensis produces six to eight litters per year with a mean litter size of 1.5 (Happold pers. comm.). Hares at higher altitudes will have smaller litters than those at lower altitudes (Happold pers. comm.). Home range for this species varies, depending on the type of habitat in which it is found (Flux and Angermann 1990 ). There is little information available on the diet of L. capensis, but is presumed to vary according to habitat as well (Flux and Angermann 1990).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Because of oil wealth and a desire within Gulf States to increase the human population size (in order to become less dependent on foreign labour) there are numerous threats to the species throughout its range:
Urban development: current and future threat
Infrastructural development: current and future threat
Road kills: current and future threat
Livestock competition: current and future threat
Recreational activities: current and future threat
Harvest/hunting: current and future threat
Pesticides: likely to become a threat within the next 10 years
Poisoning: likely to become a threat within the next 10 years
Climate: current and future threat
Disease: possible future threat
Loss of habitat: current and future threat
Habitat fragmentation: current and future threat
Predation: current and future threat

These threats are likely to lead to a population decline. Current estimates are that the population has declined by less than 20% since the 1980's. This figure is derived from another estimate that the available habitat has declined by approximately 20% since the 1950's. Predictions are that available habitat will continue to decline until the year 2024.

In Africa, loss of habitat due to agricultural practices and hunting (sport and subsistence) pose a threat to L. capensis (Kryger et al. 2004).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: National legislation does exist:
Protected by law in Jordan, UAE, Oman, and Bahrain. Hunting is permitted in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Hares are present in all terrestrial protected areas.

In Arabia, hare specific surveys are required to confirm if populations are still extant. According to colleagues who have visited Masirah Island, Oman for coastal surveys, there are no longer any hares there. If it is true, this would be of concern as it is possible that L. c. jefferyi is in fact a separate species. There were no representatives from Bahrain; however, from previous conversations with wildlife biologists from Bahrain it seems possible that L. c. atallahi may no longer exist there. It was also recorded, provisionally, as occurring in Qatar. There are still hares in Qatar but their taxonomy is uncertain.

The area of occupancy for L. capensis includes sections of established protected areas in Africa (Boitani et al. 1999).

Citation: Drew, C., O'Donovan, D., Simkins, G., Al Dosary, M., Al Khaldi, A.M., Mohammed, O.B., Al Nuaimi, A.S.M., Al Mutairi, M.S., Al Habhani, H.M., Sami Amr, Z., Qarqas, M. & Abu Baker, M.A. 2008. Lepus capensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 December 2014.
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