Pentalagus furnessi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Pentalagus furnessi
Species Authority: (Stone, 1900)
Common Name(s):
English Amami Rabbit, Ryukyu Rabbit
Taxonomic Notes: There are no recognized subspecies of Pentalagus furnessi (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(ii,iii,v)+2ab(ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Yamada, F & Sugimura, K.
Reviewer(s): Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Pentalagus furnessi has a small area of occupancy (335 km²) (Sugimura et al. 2000; Sugimura and Yamada 2004), and is located in 4 fragmented subpopulations (Yamada 2004) with two locations (Amami and Tokuno islands) that are experiencing a continuing decline in area of occupancy, area and quality of habitat, and number of mature individuals (Sugimura et al. 2000; Sugimura and Yamada 2004). The decline is attributed to invasive predators (Yamada and Cervantes 2005) and habitat loss caused by forest clearing (Sugimura et al. 2000) and resort construction (McDowell 1996).

There are an estimated 2,000-4,800 individuals on Amami island, the larger population, based on fecal pellet counts (Sugimura and Yamada 2004). This is a decline of approximately 20% since the last count of 2,500-6,100 in 1993 & 1994 (Sugimura and Yamada 2004).
1996 Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pentalagus furnessi occurs only on the Japanese islands of Amami-Oshima (712 km² total land area) and Tokuno-Shima (248 km²), in Kagoshima prefecture, in the Nansei archipelago (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). The rabbit is estimated to have a distribution on Amami Island of 301.4 km² (Yamada and Cervantes 2005), and 33 km² on Tokuno, based on data collected using fecal pellet presence and suitable habitat (Sugimura et al. 2000). The area of both islands combined is 960 km², but less than half of the area constitutes suitable habitat (Yamada and Cervantes 2005 ). The rabbit’s distribution is fragmented into four separate populations, three of which are very small. (Yamada 2004). The elevational distribution is from sea level to 694 m on Amami and 645 m on Tokuna (Yamada and Cervantes 2005).

Range size declined on Amami Island by 20-40% from 1977-1994 (Yamada 2008).
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Total population size for Amami island from estimates in 2003 was between 2,000 and 4,800 individuals, reduced from a 1993-1994 estimate of 2,500-6,100 individuals. These estimates were based on fecal pellet counts (Sugimura and Yamada 2004). No index of abundance is known for the population on Tokuno, which has a much smaller area of occupancy.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Pentalagus furnessi originally lived in dense primary forest, prior to widespread deforestation (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). No studies have been conducted to measure the impact of the deforestation that began in the 1950's on P. furnessi abundance, but old forest area was reduced by 70-90% of the area since 1980 by logging (Sugimura et al. 2000). P. furnessi currently lives in coastal cycad cover, mountain habitat with oak cover (Yamada and Cervantes 2005), broad leafed evergreen forests and cutover areas where perennial grasses dominate (Sugimura et al. 2000).

P. furnessi has a diet of 12 species of herbaceous plants and 17 shrub species, consuming mostly acorns and the sprouts and young shoots of plants (Yamada and Cervantes 2005).

P. furnessi burrows underground usually in densely covered forest valleys (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). They are primarily nocturnal (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). The total length of males of this species is 45.1 cm. Females are on average 45.2 cm in length (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). P. furnessi has two breeding seasons each year (March-May and September-December), with a single kitten bred at a time (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). At birth, neonates are 15.0 cm in length (Yamada and Cervantes 2005).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Pentalagus furnessi is threatened by invasive predatory species and human caused habitat destruction.

The introduction of the mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), which probably occurred on Amami Island in 1979, has presented a serious threat to P. furnessi, which evolved in isolation in absence of large active predators (Yamada 2002). Feral cats and dogs on both islands present a similar threat (Yamada and Cervantes 2005).

Habitat destruction, in the form of logging, has decreased the area of old growth forest to less than 10-30% of the area that existed in 1980 (Sugimura et al. 2000). Forest road construction, for the purpose of logging, encourages predator expansion in forests (Sugimura et al. 2000). Construction of resort facilities (e.g. golf courses) on Amami island have caused concern because the plans required destruction of rabbit habitat (McDowell 1996).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Pentalagus furnessi was declared a natural monument of Japan in 1921, and a special natural monument in 1963. These designations prohibited hunting and capture of the rabbits (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). The Center for Conservation of Amami Wildlife was established in 1999, and P. furnessi was listed under the Japanese Endangered Species Act in 2004 (Yamada and Cervantes 2005).

Control of exotic predators has been addressed by a program started in 2005 by the Ministry of the Environment, which seeks to eradicate the introduced mongoose (Yamada and Cervantes 2005). Control of feral cats and dogs is also needed (Sugimura et al. 2000).

Because of the limited area of P. furnessi’s natural range, habitat preservation is very important (Sugimura et al. 2000). The cessation of forest road construction would discourage the spread of predators into the rabbit’s range and restrict logging of mature forests. These logging practices destroy prime habitat for P. furnessi and fragment local populations (Sugimura et al. 2000). Government subsidies intending to support the local economy have inhibited rabbit conservation, as they have provided financial support for forest road construction (Sugimura 1988) and clearing for farmland (Sugimura et al. 2000). Ninety percent of the mature forest area is privately or locally owned, the remaining 10% is owned by the national government (Sugimura et al. 2000).

Bibliography [top]

Hoffmann, R. S. and Smith, A. T. 2005. Order Lagomorpha. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 185-211. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

McDowell, D. 1996. Pentalagus furnessi. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Sugimura, K. 1988. The role of government subsidies in the population declines of some unique wildlife species on Amami Oshima, Japan. Environmental Conservation 15: 49-57.

Sugimura, K. and Yamada, F. 2004. Estimating Population Size of the Amami rabbit Pentalagus furnessi based on Fecal Pellet Counts on Amami Island, Japan. Acta Zoologica Sinica 50: 4.

Sugimura, K., Sato, S., Yamada, F., Abe, S., Hirakawa, H. and Handa, Y. 2000. Distribution and abundance of the Amami rabbit Pentalagus furnessi in the Amami and Tojuno islands, Japan. Oryx 34(3): 198-206.

Yamada, F. 2002. Impacts and control of introduced small Indian mongoose on Amami island, Japan. In: C. R. Veitch and M. N. Clout (eds), Turning the tide: the eradication of invasive species, pp. 389-392. IUCN SSC Species specialist group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Yamada, F. 2004. Pentalagus furnessi distribution.

Yamada, F. 2008. A Review of the Biology and Conservation of the Amami Rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi). Lagomorph Biology: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation, pp. 369-377. Springer, New York, USA.

Yamada, F. and Cervantes, F. A. 2005. Pentalagus furnessi. Mammalian Species 782: 1-5.

Yamada, F. and Sugimura, K. 2004. Negative impact of invasive small Indian mongoose Herpestes javanicus on native wildlife species and evaluation of its control project in Amami-Ohshima Island and Okiwana Island, Japan. Global Environment 8.

Yamada, F., Takaki, M and Suzuki, H. 2002. Molecular phylogeny of Japanese Leporidae, the Amami rabbit Pentalagus furnessi, the Japanese hare Lepus brachyurus, and the mountain hare Lepus timidus, inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Genes, Genetics and Systematics 77: 107-116.

Citation: Yamada, F & Sugimura, K. 2008. Pentalagus furnessi. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 01 July 2015.
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