Separated into two categories, temperate and tropical, rain forests cover 2 percent of the planet's surface area, and are home to more than 50 percent of its wildlife. The temperate forests are declining in size at a rate of hundreds of acres per day, forcing the relocation of its rabbits, who make their homes in some of the thickest deciduous forests of the world.
Temperate With a Temper
Ongoing deforestation reduces the habitats of the rabbits of the world's temperate rain forests, of which only a handful are documented. The Omilteme cottontail, indigenous to Mexico, has been considered critically endangered since 1996. Equally at risk is the Mexican cottontail, known to exist in the lowlands of the Pacific coast, and the temperate rain forests of Mexico. The Mexican cottontail, although not yet considered endangered, is qualified as lower risk/near threatened. At a loss of nearly 56,000 square miles per year, the planet's rain forests are gradually disappearing, threatening not only the lives of rabbits and other species who call these forests home, but the largest supply of drinking water which sustains not only wildlife, but the world's human population.
The Vanishing Vulnerable
The Yarkand hare, the only rabbit known to be endemic to China's temperate forests, is a small brown hare with large ears. Similar to the Mexican cottontail in terms of risk, the Yarkand is considered near threatened and faces future extinction due to the reduction of its habitat. For the volcano rabbit, the future is now. Labeled critically endangered, and existing in limited numbers near Mexico City, the volcano rabbit is known to occupy the thickest temperate regions of four mountains a mere hour's drive from a human population exceeding 17 million. As human habitats expand, and rain forests are stripped of valuable resources including timber, these vulnerable rabbits, whose limited quantity has reached a desperate stage, are at risk of disappearing.
King of the Mountain
The mountain hare is the only known species of rabbit found in the temperate rain forests whose numbers suggest it may survive the storm of deforestation. Indigenous to multiple locales, including the Alps, Poland, Ireland and mountainous and temperate regions stretching from east Siberia to Scandinavia, the mountain hare travels in large groups, perhaps proving the old adage that there is safety in numbers.
There are nearly 30 breeds of wild rabbits, and many species and subspecies may exist undiscovered in the most dense regions of the planet. In 2007, the Sumatran striped rabbit was photographed deep in the Indonesian rain forest. Despite being tropical, as opposed to temperate, the unprecedented documentation of this elusive rabbit suggests that many species may remain undetected in both types of the world's rain forests. According to the World Conservation Society, in order to protect the rabbits of the rain forest, protection of the rain forest itself is essential. It may be impossible to know for certain how many species of rabbits make their homes deep in the temperate rain forests. These long-eared creatures roam some of the thickest forests of the planet, evading efforts to photograph, research and document their very existence.
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