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AMAMI, Kagoshima Pref. (Kyodo) The Amami rabbit, an endangered dark-furred species often called a living fossil, has been falling prey to wild and pet dogs in the forest of Amami Oshima Island here, according to a recent study.

The findings by the Environment Ministry and others will be presented at a meeting of the Ecological Society of Japan that will open Friday in Niigata. For the study, Yuya Watari of the University of Tokyo’s graduate school of agricultural and life sciences teamed up with researchers from the ministry’s Wildlife Conservation Center to study dog dung collected from the mountainous south-central part of the island from May 2000 to last November.

Of the 58 pieces collected, 23 contained the fur and bones of Amami rabbits, which are protected by law, the 28-year-old scientist said. In addition, 11 pieces contained the fur of Ryukyu long-haired rats (Diplothrix legata) and eight contained that of the Ryukyu spiny rat (Tokudaia osimensis), which are both also protected by the law, he said.

The rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi) is only found on Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima islands. It is thought to be a remnant of ancient rabbits that once lived on the Asian mainland.