Annamite striped rabbits are very similar in appearance to their sister species, Sumatran striped rabbits, but morphological and genetic data support species-level distinction.
The Annamite striped rabbit was first observed in 1995 by biologist Rob Timmins in Bak Lak, Laos, and was described in 1999.
The Annamite striped rabbit is one of 3 species in the Nesolagus genus, though one species is extinct.
Along with the Sumatran striped rabbit, the Annamite striped rabbit is the most elusive lagomorph known to science and no studies have focused on its ecology, range, or population status.
Annamite striped rabbits can be common to rare, but only 10 specimens have been collected and only a single live rabbit has been photographed in the wild.
The Annamite striped rabbit is assessed as “Endangered” based on the high level of snaring and agriculture activity in Vietnam which is causing sharp declines in all ground-dwelling small mammals.
The lifespan of Annamite striped rabbits is currently unknown.
It is unknown why there is a 1,000-mile gap between the Annamite striped rabbit and its closest relative, the Sumatran striped rabbit, but they diverged from common ancestors.
The Annamite striped rabbit is found in conservation areas Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Nakai–Nam Theun, and Umat.
The Annamite striped rabbit occurs at low and medium altitudes in the northern and central Annamite Mountains along the Viet Nam and Lao PDR border.
The Annamite striped rabbit is named for its native region in the Annamite Mountains and its striped appearance, as it is one of only two species of rabbits to have stripes.
The Annamite striped rabbits’ common name, “rabbit”, usually applies to all genera in the Leporidae family, except Lepus, as almost half the members of Lepus are called “hares”.
The Annamite striped rabbit is in the Leporidae family of rabbits and hares, containing over 60 species of extant mammals.
The Annamite striped rabbit has no recognized subspecies.
The Annamite striped rabbit’s ears are half the length of those of species in genus Lepus, and their tails and limbs are shorter, as well, making them poor runners and burrowers.
Little is known regarding the reproduction of Annamite striped rabbits as few individuals have been observed, but their thought to have maternal parental investment.
There are no known adverse effects of Annamite striped rabbits on humans, though there have been reports by local villagers of the rabbit as a pest of rice fields.
Annamite striped rabbits have been used as a source of food and income by local residents of the Annamite Mountains in Laos and Vietnam.
In 2011, Annamite striped rabbit DNA was found in terrestrial leeches, offering one of the best options for detecting and monitoring the rabbit’s distribution and habitat preferences.
Natural predators of Annamite striped rabbits are widely unknown, though they are trapped by hunters in the Annamite Mountains.
The Annamite striped rabbit is not currently held in captivity, but a captive “insurance” population would help combat the species’ decline.
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The Vietnamese and Laotian governments don’t maintain any conservation plans for the Annamite striped rabbit, but snare removal teams have removed more than 75,000 snares in 5 years.
Although habitat loss and degradation have been factors in Annamite striped rabbit declines, the species’ primary threat is intensive snaring as hundreds of snares can make up several km. of brush-fence-style lines in the rabbits’ range.
Annamite striped rabbits inhabit subtropical/tropical moist lowland forest and rainforests that receive at least 40mm of rainfall each month.
Based on camera-trapping records and trends in conservation status of other species in the same areas, substantial range-wide declines of Annamite striped rabbit are likely to have occurred.
Although population size and density have not been established anywhere in its range, the Annamite striped rabbit appears to be noticeably less abundant in heavily hunted areas.
Annamite striped rabbits have a relatively primitive dental structure with a simplified paedomorphic pattern on P3.
The impact of the Annamite striped rabbit on its ecosystem is unknown, but as a herbivore, it most likely acts as a seed disperser.
The Annamite striped rabbit appears to be solitary, though duos have been spotted on two occasions.
Annamite striped rabbits are nocturnal and rest during the day in burrows made by other animals.