A study by the Palombar association based in Vimioso concluded that between 2016 and 2020 there was a significant reduction in the number of wild rabbits in the area of Trás-os-Montes due to the viral hemorrhagic disease of rabbits (DHV).
“The decrease in the population of wild rabbits in the Associative Hunting Zone (ZCA) of Santulhão in the municipality of Vimioso during the period studied [2016-2020] This may be due to new, as yet unidentified DHV outbreaks as well as to anthropic factors and adverse climatic conditions, in particular to the lack of rain in recent years ”, according to a study by this nature conservation association.
According to this association in the Bragança district, led by the biologist José Pereira, these results show the importance of continuing the surveillance measures for wild rabbits in the ZCA of Santulhão “in order to better understand the fluctuations of their breeding populations – term” It is important to assess the presence of new outbreaks of the new DHV strain and to continue habitat management measures to promote the restoration and conservation of this key species of Iberian ecosystems. This work will continue to be carried out by Palombar during 2021, ”emphasizes the association emerged in a statement.
The change in status of the wild rabbit was carried out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of its global population decline of the order of 70% and very fragmented populations in recent years. According to Palombar researchers, the wild rabbit is an important prey for several endangered species, both for mammals such as the Iberian lynx and for birds such as the Bonelli eagle, the Iberian imperial eagle and the golden eagle, as well as the scarcity of food can affect the food chain of these predators .
This association announced that it monitored the wild rabbit from 2016 to 2020 in the Associative Hunting Zone (ZCA) of Santulhão, in the Rios Sabor e Maçãs Special Protection Zone of the Natura 2000 network. The data show that the population of this species declined over this period and continued implementation and strengthening of wild rabbit management measures was “imperative” as it is “an endangered species”.
According to the official website of the National Institute for Agricultural and Veterinary Research, DHV affects the domestic rabbit and the wild rabbit, which were first identified in Portugal in 1987 in the Madeira Archipelago. In the years that followed, the DHV virus was discovered in the Azores archipelago and on the mainland and has “become endemic in some areas” due to its high level of transmissibility and resistance in the environment.
The organization also explains that in 2010 the emergence of a new genotype called RHDV2 disrupted the fragile balance between wild rabbit populations and classic RHDV strains that had spread rapidly in Western European countries, replacing and showing classic genotypes that were previously in circulation excellent ability of RHDV2 to bypass the natural immunity of populations conferred by contact with classical strains. While the classic forms of DHV mainly affected adults, RHDV2 also caused high mortality in young rabbits, which significantly restricted the recruitment of new people into populations.