RIP, pygmy rabbit

Readers who have been following my linkurl:coverage of attempts to save the endangered pygmy rabbit;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/daily/53232/ may remember linkurl:Onyx, ;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53292/ a male rabbit I accompanied in April as his keepers moved him into temporary quarters to see how he would do in a ''prerelease setting.'' Onyx, who is 75% Columbia Basin rabbit and 25% Idaho rabbit -- the Columbia rabbits are officially endangered, and there has linkurl:be

By | October 26, 2007

Readers who have been following my linkurl:coverage of attempts to save the endangered pygmy rabbit;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/daily/53232/ may remember linkurl:Onyx, ;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53292/ a male rabbit I accompanied in April as his keepers moved him into temporary quarters to see how he would do in a ''prerelease setting.'' Onyx, who is 75% Columbia Basin rabbit and 25% Idaho rabbit -- the Columbia rabbits are officially endangered, and there has linkurl:been a petition;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53716/ to list the Idaho rabbits as endangered -- was bred in captivity. The hope was that he would eventually be released into the wild, and that the mix of genes would help him avoid many of the problems from which the highly inbred Columbia rabbits suffer. Those hopes were dashed on October 16, I just learned, when Onyx was euthanized after being diagnosed with knee arthritis and pneumonia the week before. He had lost 20% of his body weight over the past few months, and had been moved back to the Oregon Zoo from his large pen. A necropsy showed likely mycobacterial granulomas ''glued to his ribs,'' according to Oregon Zoo vet Lisa Harrenstien, ''and his knee (and his elbow as a surprise) had similar masses,'' she wrote in an email to other pygmy rabbit keepers. Harrenstien suspects mycobacteriosis, but confirmation will take another month or two. A number of rabbits died in an outbreak early this year, but that is thought to have been due to coronavirus infection. ''We euthanized Onyx earlier (clinically) than some of the other rabbits we've done in the past, but seeing the necropsy lesions I can't believe how good he looked behaviorally,'' Harrenstien wrote in the Email. ''I'm really tired of this disease,'' Harrenstien wrote. She's not sure that the 75% animals will do any better than the 100% Columbia rabbits, but the jury is very much still out on that. There was talk of a release this fall, but it seems unlikely there will be one before next fall. That of course depends on next year's breeding season, says Rachel Lamson, one of the Oregon Zoo rabbit keepers. There are about 80-90 rabbits being bred in captivity. ''Life's tough in pygmy rabbit land right now,'' Lamson wrote me. ''I've had to say good-bye to too many of my friends this year....Ludlow, Mossy, Carageen, Piper, Plum, and Onyx, to name a few.'' RIP, Onyx.
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