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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GAVIN LLOYD WILSON: Black Bunnies

Black bunnies - melanistic black rabbits in the wild

Each night last week BBC1's early evening magazine programme The One Show featured a segment filmed at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. During the report on Wednesday's programme we were shown an orphaned wild baby rabbit that just happened to be jet-black in colour. The reporter, Mike Dilger, claimed that such melanistic rabbits were "one in a million".

Well, for the past 10 years or so I have been seeing wild black rabbits in and around Didcot, Oxfordshire, where I live. At first I thought it was the same individual I was seeing over and over, but then I started seeing them in other locations locally. I have on occasion seen two or three at the same time, and have sighted both adults and babies with this condition. I estimate that in total I have seen between 20 and 30 such individuals over the last 10 years.

So, if such black bunnies are really "one in a million", does that mean they are all concentrated into this one small area of Oxfordshire? Somehow I very much doubt it. I would like to throw this question open to the readers of the CFZ bloggo and ask for black rabbit sightings from around the country, just to get a more realistic idea of how widespread this phenomenon is.

Are these black rabbits becoming more commonplace? Does anyone remember seeing such rabbits in the wild 20, 30 or more years ago?

I attach two photographs I took of a black rabbit in a field in East Hagbourne, near Didcot, on 20 July 2010.

Gavin

1 comment:

blueguitar said...

The Handbook of British Mammals describes melanic Rabbits as "not uncommon" and "more frequent in the absence of ground predators (e.g. on islands or in large enclosures)".

I have encountered melanic Rabbits while undertaking contracted fieldwork in the Uists (Outer Hebrides) and the Isle of Man, as well as frequently in the home counties (including, like Gavin, two animals at a time) and suspect that many larger colonies hold at least one example.

I would not be surprised if a rigorous study found melanic Rabbits to occur in a ratio of around 1:100 - certainly not the telly person's 1:1000000! (Misinformation like that is not uncommon on television wildlife programmes; the old adage about not believing all that you read in the newspapers should be adapted to apply to other media!)

I think others have also mooted a possible increase in melanics, but I don't know of any hard research. Counts by amateurs at a series of colonies at dawn or dusk could be worthwhile.