By / 3rd October, 2018 / Wildlife At Makweti / Off

We are privileged to live in such an amazing environment and are reminded of this daily. Makweti Safari Lodge is not only home to our incredible team and a home-away-from-home for our guests, but we also share this space with several resident camp creatures.

On occasions at night whilst heading back to the rooms, guests will catch a glimpse of the shy Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit, which lives amongst the rocks and boulders of the camp and surrounding hillside. Like the other species of the Lagomorph Order of Mammals (Rabbits and Hares), they are mostly nocturnal, although not exclusively.

In Southern Africa there are 5 species of rabbits and 2 species of hares, of which the Scrub Hare is the most common and often seen on night drives, mostly in open areas. The rabbit species however are shy and elusive, and as a result very little is known about them.

Soeren and Nuria Becker, who stayed with us in Winter this year were fortunate enough to witness one of these creatures in the day when coming down to lunch at the main lodge. They were able to capture a great photo of one, which lives quietly within our surroundings. On overcast days, these animals may venture out to forage or take short opportunities to bask in the sun. They are rarely seen in the mornings, particularly in Winter.

How To Spot A Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit

  1. Their colour is quite distinct, being red brown on the back, light undersides and legs
  2. They have a distinct black tipped tail that is tucked close to the rump
  3. The head is light grey, and they have typically shorter ears than hares

Although uncommon, the Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit is the most common of the rabbit species, and is found in Namibia to SW Angola, in South Africa in the NW areas where it prefers rocky habitats and isolated outcrops.

The five rabbit species in the region (Southern Africa) are all grazers, although the Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit is known to feed on leaves of woody plants as well. It is therefore quiet well-suited to the Makweti Camp, surrounding hills and gorge. They will lie up in the day in the rock crevices, hidden from view and will usually venture out after dark to forage in the areas close to the waterhole and in the central part of the camp between the rooms, main lodge and the Indaba Lounge. There is one individual who rests during the day under the deck at the entrance to the main lodge area, which is the one Soeren and Nuria were fortunate to spot.

They are solitary animals, and where groups have been observed, it is usually due to a congregation due to a common resource, or one or two males interested in a gravid female. Records show they breed all year round depending on the region and give birth to usually 1 or 2 young. We have identified at least three individuals in the camp area and have seen others on the Reserve close to camp. We have yet to witness any offspring being born into the Makweti community of these rabbits.

What Is The Difference Between Hares And Rabbits?

Whilst most differences are noticeable in the field, their behavioural differences are easily recognisable. Hares have longer ear’s and long hind-legs and run as opposed to moving in a hopping movement. The young are born fully furred, mobile with all senses developed. This is often referred to as Precocial. This behaviour is also referred to as nidifugous. (from Latin roots: “nidis” meaning ‘nest’ and “fugere” meaning ‘to flee’). Hares will shelter under thick vegetation and shallow depressions that are well hidden.

Rabbits are squatter, with short tails and hind-legs and move with a hopping motion. Their young are born blind and relatively helpless and furless. This is often referred to as Altricial (from Latin roots: “alere” which means “to nurse”). Rabbits will shelter in burrows and rock crevices.

Information: Neil Davison
Image credit: Soeren and Nuria Becker, guests at Makweti

References:

  1. Personal observations on Welgevonden Game Reserve and other Southern African Reserves
  2. Mammals of the Southern African Sub Region, J.D Skinner & R.H.N. Smithers, Second Edition, University of Pretoria: Mammal Research Institute, Pretoria, 1990
  3. Smithers Mammals of Southern Africa: A Field Guide, R.H.N Smithers, Third Edition, Southern Book Publishers, Johannesburg, 1996
  4. Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa, Chris & Tilde Stuart, Fourth Edition, Struik Nature, Cape Town, 2007