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ESR 43:99-102 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01058

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The paradox of endangered European rabbits regarded as pests on the Iberian Peninsula: trends in subspecies matter

Patricia H. Vaquerizas1,*, Miguel Delibes-Mateos1, Vicente Piorno2, Beatriz Arroyo3, Francisca Castro4, Rafael Villafuerte1

1Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC), 14004 Córdoba, Spain
2Parque Nacional de las Islas Atlánticas de Galicia, Consellería de Medio Ambiente, Territorio e Vivienda - Xunta de Galicia, 36202 Vigo, Spain
3Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), 13005 Ciudad Real, Spain
4Departamento de Didácticas Específicas, Universidad de Córdoba, Sociedad, Ecología y Gestión del Medio Ambiente, UCO-IESA, Unidad Asociada al CSIC, 14071 Córdoba, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus faces a paradoxical situation in its native range on the Iberian Peninsula. While many populations have declined sharply due to a new variant of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV-b), others remain healthy. The latter populations, which flourish mostly on farmland, cause significant crop damage. We explored if this difference could be related to the existence of the 2 rabbit subspecies (O. c. algirus and O. c. cuniculus) that coexist allopatrically on the Iberian Peninsula. Potential differences in population trends between rabbit subspecies may also be relevant in assisting the conservation of endangered rabbit-dependent predators which mainly occur in the distribution area of O. c. algirus. To test this, we assessed rabbit trends after the outbreak of RHDV-b by an online questionnaire to the senior administrative officers of all provincial official game departments throughout peninsular Spain (n = 47). A generalized negative trend was reported by officers in the distribution area of O. c. algirus, while a more stable or even positive trend was reported in the distribution area of O. c. cuniculus. We point to the need for establishing a long-term rabbit population monitoring programme on the Iberian Peninsula to further confirm the observed patterns, but also to contribute to evidence-based management decision-making. Our results suggest a need to apply different management systems for each rabbit subspecies.


KEY WORDS: Management strategies · Oryctolagus cuniculus algirus · Oryctolagus cuniculus cuniculus · Peninsular Spain · Questionnaire survey · Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus · RHDV-b


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Cite this article as: Vaquerizas PH, Delibes-Mateos M, Piorno V, Arroyo B, Castro F, Villafuerte R (2020) The paradox of endangered European rabbits regarded as pests on the Iberian Peninsula: trends in subspecies matter. Endang Species Res 43:99-102. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01058

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