In January there were Easter eggs in the shops. Yes, January. Noggs noticed. To Noggs large chocolate eggs must look even more enormous. I sometimes imagine being Noggs’ size and his perspective on the world. He must feel like Jack up the beanstalk in the land of the giants with tables at head height and toilets his little bum could easily sloop into. Holding an Easter egg must feel like holding one of the giant’s golden goose eggs. Anyways, occassionally when he sees something he wants in a shop it can be hard to convince him to walk on without a fuss. But with Easter eggs he has gladly accepted that he has to leave them because the Easter bunny is going to bring choccy eggs for him soon. He gives the Easter eggs a mature knowing nod, walks on, and then finds a cucumber to wave around like a sword while making pirate noises. It is nearly time now for the Easter bunny to spring into action and Noggs is counting the days.
In South Africa, there are eight species of lagomorphs. Lagomorph is an amazing word for any member of the order Lagomorpha which is comprised of hares, rabbits, and pikkas. Don’t get the word lagomorph confused with legomorph which is what Noggs’ duplo does every day as he turns tree houses into cars with towers precariously attached on the back. Do say the word lagomorph in lots of different voices because it is super fun.
For a short description of the some of South Africa’s lagomorphs, click here. One of these species, the riverine rabbit, is critically endangered as it has very specific habitat requirements and these fragmented areas in the central Karoo are being destroyed or degraded by humans for farming. Conservation efforts, particularly by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, are trying to save the riverine rabbit. We have the more common scrub hare where we live. Although we sometimes photograph them on our camera trap, we seldom see them, as they are nocturnal.
I think the small stuff like rabbits, hares, mongooses, foxes, etc, are often overlooked when people think about South African wildlife. These species don’t receive the same attention that the big stuff does, but small mammals are really important. Sam published a research paper recently entitled ‘Predation by small mammalian carnivores in rural agro-ecosystems: An undervalued ecosystem service?’ In a nutshell, small carnivores like jackals and mongooses (sometimes referred to as mongeese) are often perceived as a problem for farmers and are persecuted. However, they could actually be providing rural farmers with an important ecosystem service by controlling rodents who destroy their crops. If you want to read more about this research check out Sam’s article in the Conversation ‘From foe to friend: how carnivores could help farmers’. Rabbits and hares are the same. Often undervalued, especially by the big 5 seeking tourist, but super important for the ecosystem. I have seen lions hunting rabbits and hares. They provide a good snack / meal for the bigger things up the food chain. They also eat native plants and disperse plant seeds (and chocolate eggs).
Domestic rabbits can be small but mighty too. My dear friend Abbie is a licensed mental health counsellor in Massachusetts, USA and she has a therapy bunny called Peanut who works with her to help people. Although rabbits can make amazing colleagues and pets, people often underestimate how much care and exercise they require and how long they live, leading them to be the third most abandoned pet in the US. Easter can be bad for rabbits as young rabbits are often purchased as gifts under the assumption that they are easy to care for short-lived pets. When the reality kicks in a few months later, rabbits are often abandoned. So please do not buy rabbits as Easter gifts. If you need to buy Easter gifts for someone, you can always buy me chocolate eggs, as many as you like.
So that’s my take on rabbits, hares, and Easter eggs. Happy Easter for next week and hooray for all the small but mighty stuff.