Protected rabbits found dead on Amami-Oshima

KAGOSHIMA (Kyodo) Eleven rabbits of a type found only in Japan and designated as a natural treasure have been killed by dogs on Amami-Oshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, local officials said Wednesday.

All 11 rabbits were discovered Monday morning along a logging road. Autopsies were performed Wednesday at the Environment Ministry’s Amami Wildlife Conservation Center. The results showed that at least eight of them — all adults — had dog bites. The other three were too decomposed to determine the cause of death.

The Amami rabbit is endemic to Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima islands and constitutes the sole species in a genus found nowhere else in the world.

The rabbit enjoys complete legal protection from hunting and capture. In 1921, it became the first animal to be designated by the government as a natural treasure. Regarded as a “living fossil,” the rabbit is of special interest to scientists because it is seen as a living remnant of rabbits that once lived on the Asian mainland.