Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Killer Rabbit (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Ever wonder where Monty Python got the idea for the killer rabbit scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I bet you thought it was just because the rabbit was the most innocuous creature they could think of.

But note that the rabbit is hopping about near what looks like a volcano.

I just found out a couple of days ago that there is actually a species of rabbit that lives on the slopes of a volcano in Mexico - and only there. (It's not carnivorous, of course!) But I just wonder if someone in Monty Python heard about these rabbits and then got this idea.

The Volcano Rabbit also known as teporingo or zacatuche (Romerolagus diazi) is a small rabbit that resides in the mountains of Mexico. It is the world's second smallest rabbit, second only to the Pygmy Rabbit. It has small rounded ears, short legs, and short, thick fur. The Volcano Rabbit lives in groups of 2 to 5 animals in burrows. Unlike many species of rabbits (and similar to pikas), the Volcano Rabbit utters very high-pitched sounds instead of thumping its feet on the ground to warn other rabbits of danger. It is nocturnal and is highly active during twilight, dawn and all times in between. The Volcano Rabbit weighs approximately 390–600 g (14–21 oz). As of 1969, there were 1000 to 1200 in the wild.

The Volcano Rabbit lives in Mexico. The rabbit has been pushed into areas on the slopes of the Iztaccíhuatl, Pelado, Popocatepetl, and Tlaloc volcanoes. The Volcano Rabbit is generally found between elevations of 2800 m and 4250 m in pine forests with a dense undergrowth of bunch grass and rocky terrain called the transverse neovolcanic axis.

The Volcano Rabbit feeds on green leaves in zacaton grasses, the undeveloped leaves of spiny herbs and the bark of alder trees. During the rainy season, it will also eat oats and corn from crops.

The most serious threats to the Volcano Rabbit are habitat degradation and target shooting.[2]

Habitat management
The IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group has created an action plan for this rabbit (Fa & Bell, 1990). The plan focuses upon the need to manage the burning and overgrazing of the zacaton habitats and to enforce laws prohibiting the capture, sale and hunting of the animal. Studies are recommended into the geographical range, habitat relationships, population dynamics and life history (Fa & Bell, 1990). In addition, habitat restoration and the establishment of zacaton corridors to link core areas of habitat are needed. Captive breeding colonies exist at Jersey Zoo, UK and Chapultepec Zoo, Mexico City

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