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Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Lagomorpha / Leporidae / Lepus / Species

Lepus microtis - African savanna hare (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

 

INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Savanna hare. (B285.w5c, B51)
  • Lepus crawshayi. (B285.w5c, B607.w20)
  • Lepus kakumegae. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus raineyi. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus victoriae. (B607.w20)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

  • Leveret. (B285.w5b)

Names for males

Names for females

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General Appearance

Adult:

General Information

  • All hares have well-furred feet. (B147)
  • "The upper parts of the body are usually brown or grayish brown, and the underparts are paler or white." (B147)
  • Some species of hare have black tips to their ears, and some have black fur on the upper side of their tail. (B147)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • This is a medium-sized species. (B605.4.w4)
  • This is a greyish brown hare with white underparts and rufous sides, breast and legs are rufous. The upper part of the tail is black, whereas the underside is white, and the ears are black towards the tips. The fur is coarser than in (B605.4.w4)

Newborn:

General Information

  • Lepus spp. leverets are furred at birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)

Similar Species

Specific Lepus microtis Information
  • This species is smaller than the Lepus saxatilis - Scrub hare. (B605.4.w4)
  • This species "tends to be more richly colored than the Cape hare L.capensis...but where the two species coexist in East Africa they may be almost identical in color." (B605.4.w4)
  • This species has coarser fur than the Lepus capensis - Cape hare. (B605.4.w4)

Sexual Dimorphism

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Author: Kathryn Pintus BSc MSc MSc (V.w115)

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • --

Management Techniques

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Notes

LENGTH
Adult:

General Lepus Information

  • 400-700 mm. (B147)
  • Males are usually smaller than females. (B147)
  • 40-76 cm. (B285.w5c)

Newborns: --

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: --
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult:

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • On average this species weighs about 2 kg, though weights range from 1.5-3 kg. (B605.4.w4)

Newborns: --

GROWTH RATE --

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Head and Neck

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general lagomorph and leporid information.

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

General Information

  • All lagomorphs have large ears relative to their body size. (B285.w5a)
  • Almost all Lepus species have long ears. (B147)

Newborn: --

DENTITION:
Adult:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares have a total of 28 teeth. (B285.w5a)
  • The lower tooth rows are closer together than the upper tooth rows. (B147)
  • Lagomorphs differ from rodents by having two pairs of upper incisors rather than just the one pair. The additional set of incisors are called peg teeth and are found directly behind the long pair in the upper jaw. (B147, B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • At birth, lagomorphs actually have three pairs of upper incisors, but they quickly lose the outer incisor on each side. (B147)
  • The incisors are covered completely by enamel. (B147)
  • The upper incisors' roots are found in the skull's premaxillary bones. However, the length of the lower incisors' roots varies. (B147)
    • [Note: lagomorphs have teeth which grow throughout their lives. For this reason the portion of the teeth which is not exposed (not above the gum line) is strictly speaking not a "root"; however, it is sometimes convenient to describe it as a root.]
  • The first upper incisors have a straight cutting edge. (B147)
  • The peg teeth lack a cutting edge. (B147)

EYES:
Adult:

General Information

  • Lagomorph eyes are positioned such that they allow for good broad-field vision. (B285.w5a)
  • Hares and rabbits have large eyes which are adapted to both their crepuscular and nocturnal activity patterns. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporids have "large eyes to increase visual acuity in dim light." (B430.w2)

Newborn:

General Information

  • Leverets are born with their eyes open. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

General Information
  • All hares have well-furred feet. (B147)
  • Almost all Lepus species have large hind feet. (B147)

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Tail

Notes

General Lepus Information:

  • Leporids have a short tail. (B147)
  • 35-100 mm. (B147)
  • Average: 58 mm. (B430.w2)
  • Range: 48-76 mm. (B430.w2)
  • 3.5-12 cm. (B285.w5c)

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

Adult:

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • The upperparts of this species are greyish brown, whereas the underparts are white. The sides, breast and legs are rufous. The upper part of the tail is black, whereas the underside is white, and the ears are black towards the tips. (B605.4.w4)
  • This species has coarser fur than the Lepus capensis - Cape hare. (B605.4.w4)
  • This species "tends to be more richly colored than the Cape hare L.capensis...but where the two species coexist in East Africa they may be almost identical in color." (B605.4.w4)
  • "Mountain forms are more rufous and darker in coloring." (B605.4.w4)

Adult Colour variations:

General Information

  • Some Lepus species moult into a white winter pelage (B147, B605.4.w4), the timing of which depends upon the number of daylight hours. (B147)
  • "All species that turn white in winter undergo two molts per year. Some species that molt twice, however, do not have a white winter pelage." In these species, the winter pelage is grey, whereas the summer fur is brown. (B147)

Newborn / Juvenile:

General Information

  • Lepus spp. leverets are furred at birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

The details below are from general lagomorph, leporid and Lepus information.

Skull
  • Leporids have an arched skull with a slight constriction between the orbits. (B147)
  • Lepus species have a skull that is lighter than the skull of rabbit species. (B605.4.w4)
Female reproductive tract
  • Female Lepus spp. have three to five pairs of mammary glands, with an extensive mass of mammary tissue. (B147, B287)
Male reproductive tract
  • Males lack a baculum (B147)
  • Testes are in the scrotum located in front of the penis (B147)
Digestive system
  • The largest part of the digestive tract is the caecum; this has a capacity up to ten times that of the stomach. (B147)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

BREEDING SEASON:

General Information

  • The majority of Lepus species have a long breeding season. (B147)
  • Southern Lepus species breed throughout the year. (B285.w5c)
OESTRUS / OVULATION:

General Information

GESTATION / PREGNANCY:

General Information

  • Under adverse conditions (such as during climatic or social stress), female lagomorphs are able to resorb embryos. (B285.w5a)
  • It is thought that some lagomorph species are able to conceive a second litter even before the last young is born; this is known as superfetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Gestation for Lepus species varies, but can be up to 50 days. (B285.w5c)
GESTATION / PREGNANCY:

General Information

  • Under adverse conditions (such as during climatic or social stress), female lagomorphs are able to resorb embryos. (B285.w5a)
  • It is thought that some lagomorph species are able to conceive a second litter even before the last young is born; this is known as superfetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Gestation for Lepus species varies, but can be up to 50 days. (B147,B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • A study in Botswana found that "...half to two-thirds of the adult females examined were pregnant in all months of the year." (B605.4.w4)
  • Continuous breeding also seems to occur in Uganda. (B605.4.w4)
PARTURITION / BIRTH:

General Information

  • Leverets are precocial and are born into surface-depression forms. (B285.w5b)
  • Females give birth to their young in open areas, or in a shallow depression in the ground. (B147)
  • Leverets remain hidden within dense vegetation, and the female visits them in order to nurse them. (B147)
Neonatal / Development:

General Information

  • Leverets are precocial; they are born fully furred, with open eyes, and are able to move about soon after birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)
  • Young are only suckled briefly once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • Approximately three days after birth, leverets disperse to separate hiding locations. Leveret litter-mates will regroup for a brief suckling bout at a particular location at precisely defined intervals. Such regrouping often takes place around sunset. (B285.w5b)
LITTER SIZE:

General Information

  • The size of litters produced by leporids at northern latitudes tends to be greater than those produced by leporids at southern latitudes. (B430.w2)
  • Litter sizes in Lepus species range from one to nine offspring. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • Litter sizes in both Botswana and Uganda average 1.6 young. (B605.4.w4)
TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR:

General Information

  • The inter-birth interval in lagomorphs is reduced by the phenomenon of induced ovulation, and post-partum oestrus, which allows females to conceive immediately after she has given birth. (B285.w5a)
  • A female can produce up to three or four litters per year. (B430.w2)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • A female will produce an average of eight young per year. (B605.4.w4)
LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION:

General Information

  • Leporids only release milk once in every 24 hour period. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporid milk has a very high fat and protein content, and as such is highly nutritious. Although the lactation period is brief, the milk is pumped into the young at a high speed.(B285.w5b)
  • The lactation period has a duration of between 17 and 23 days. (B285.w5b)
SEXUAL MATURITY:

General Information

  • Most species of lagomorph reach sexual maturity relatively early. (B285.w5a)
  • Lepus young do not usually breed in their first year of life. (B147)
MALE SEASONAL VARIATION:

General Information

  • Testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season, descending into the scrotum during the breeding season. (B147)
LONGEVITY / MORTALITY:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares in the wild live for less than a year on average; a maximum age of 12 years has been recorded in a couple of species. (B285.w5b)
  • "Only a minority of hares survive their first year in the wild, though survivors can reach 5 years; in captivity, hares can live to 6 or 7 years." (B285.w5c)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET:

General Information

  • Hares mainly eat grasses and herbaceous plants, but do also feed on twigs, buds and bark. (B147)

  • Isolated cases have been reported of hares capturing and eating voles and young lagomorphs. (B147)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • Diet is thought to vary greatly depending upon the habitat. (B605.4.w4)

  • One study conducted in East Africa showed that the three main food items eaten by this species were:

    • Unidentified grasses (35%). (B605.4.w4)

    • Digitaria (19%). (B605.4.w4)

    • Hyparrhenia (11%). (B605.4.w4)

QUANTITY EATEN: --

STUDY METHODS: --

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

--

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Haematology / Biochemistry

Notes

HAEMATOLOGY:--

BIOCHEMISTRY: --

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in WILDPro)

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general lagomorph and leporid information.

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE): --

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY):

General Information

  • Lagomorphs have digestive systems which are adapted for processing large quantities of vegetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of faecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy (B285.w5a)); this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE): --

CHROMOSOMES: 

  • All the Lepus species have 48 chromosomes. (B605.4.w4)

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM: --

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

General Information

  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chin and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • Whereas pikas tend to be more vocal, rabbits and hares rely strongly on scent rather than sound as a means of communication. (B285.w5b)
  • High-pitched distress squeals are emitted by leporids when captured by a predator. (B285.w5b, B430.w2)
  • Hares communicate with each other by drumming their feet. (B147)
  • Deep grumbling has been reported in Lepus species, and shrill calls are emitted when the animal is in pain. (B285.w5c)
  • "When seeking the young for nursing, females call the young and are answered." (B147)

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general lagomorph information.
General Information
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of faecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten; this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general leporid information.
General Information
  • Male leporids are not generally involved in care of the young. However, if adult females attack young leporids, males will intervene, a behaviour known as 'policing'. (B285.w5b)
  • Even maternal care of the young is not particularly prominent in leporids, hence this reproductive strategy is known as 'absentee parentism'. (B285.w5a)
  • Leporids demonstrate an unusual system of nursing; the young are suckled only briefly (often less than five minutes) just once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • It is thought that the lack of social contact between the mother and her young is a strategy which diminishes the chances of attracting the attention of predators. (B285.w5b)
  • The entrances to breeding tunnels are carefully re-sealed following each bout of suckling. (B285.w5b)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR:

General Information

  • Hares are generally solitary animals. (B430.w2)
  • With the exception of the mating season (B147), most Lepus species are solitary. (B147, B285.w5c)
  • Hares communicate with each other by drumming their feet. (B147)
Specific Lepus microtis Information
  • East Africa: This species is normally solitary, though in preferred areas it is known to feed in groups of two or three. (B605.4.w4)

PREDATION: --

PREDATOR AVOIDANCE: 

General Information

  • Hares will run out into open areas and use their speed in order to avoid predators. (B285.w5b, B605.4.w4)
  • Speeds of up to 72 km/h (45 mph) have been reported for hares. (B285.w5b)
  • "Instead of seeking cover, hares rely on their well-developed running ability to escape from danger: also on camouflage, by flattening on vegetation." (B285.w5c)
  • Jackrabbits can avoid predators by crouching against the ground in any available cover. (B147)
  • Jackrabbits are capable of running for greater distances than true rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.). (B147)

POPULATION DENSITIES:

General Lepus Information

  • Drastic, cyclic population density fluctuations occur in northern Lepus species. (B147)
  • Predator population cycles follow Lepus cycles; once predator populations have crashed, and vegetation has had the chance to regenerate, hare population numbers are able to start increasing once more. (B147)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • Population densities appear to be variable, depending upon the location. The following have been recorded:
    • Virunga National Park, Zaire: Average densities were recorded at between 0.1 and 1.8 individuals per hectare, but were sometimes as high as 9 per hectare. (B605.4.w4)
    • Serengeti: 0.09 hares per hectare. (B605.4.w4)
    • Uganda: 0.08 hares per hectare in good habitat. (B605.4.w4)
HOME RANGES AND DISTANCES TRAVELLED:

General Lepus Information

  • "Habitat type has a marked effect on home-range size within each species, but differences also occur between species." (B285.w5c)
  • Lepus species vary greatly in their home range sizes, with some species having home ranges of only 4-20 hectares, and others exceeding 300 hectares. (B285.w5c)
  • Areas within a couple of metres of forms may be defended, but home ranges often overlap, often with common feeding grounds. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • No information is available from studies on home ranges, but reports from personal observations in indicate that ranges in East Africa are small, between 5 and 10 hectares. (B605.4.w4)

TERRITORIALITY:

General Information

  • The majority of hares and rabbits are non-territorial; some hares occupy home ranges of up to 300 ha (740 acres). Ranges of individuals may overlap in favoured feeding grounds. (B285.w5b)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general lagomorph and Lepus information.
General Information
  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chin and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • Male Lepus become bolder during the mating season, and engage in fights with other males, and pursue females. (B147)
  • Male Lepus fight by using boxing motions with their forefeet and kicking with their hind feet. (B147)
  • Males often bite and kick the females, often leading to serious injury. (B147)

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS:

General Information

  • All the lagomorphs are terrestrial. (B147)

SELF-GROOMING: --

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

General Information

  • Hares and rabbits are generally at their most active at dusk or at night. (B430.w2)
  • Hares are, on the whole, nocturnal species, although some are known to be more active at twilight, and others are most active during the cooler parts of the day. (B147)

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • Strictly nocturnal. (B605.4.w4)
  • In Zaire, one report was made that "a night count along 5km was 639 hares but at 09.00 next morning not a single animal was seen." However, this count was conducted along a road. Another report made from a count conducted cross-country found that "...hares could be raised in almost equal numbers day and night by a vehicle travelling cross-country." (B605.4.w4)

SPEED OF MOVEMENT:

General Information 

  • Leporids can run at speeds of up to 80 km/hr. (B147)

NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

Specific Lepus microtis Information
  • Savanna (B51, B147) and adjoining arid regions. (B147)
  • Found in more montane areas of scrub. (B605.4.w4)
  • "In Ruanda-Urundi the African savanna hare likes Thermeda triandra and Imperata cylindrica associations...and in East Africa Tarconanthus camphoratus scrub." (B605.4.w4)
  • A study found that approximately 83% of African savanna hares were found in scrub or woodland, with only 15% being found in open grassland areas. (B605.4.w4)
  • In Uganda, cut grassland appears to attract this species, as does the fresh growth of vegetation occurring as a result of overgrazing or burning. (B605.4.w4)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general hare information.
General Information
  • Hares tend to reside in caves or crevices in rocks. (B430.w2)
  • Lepus species do not usually dig burrows or live in them, favouring fleeing rather than hiding as a mode of escape. (B147)
  • The majority of hares rest underneath vegetation, generally lying within shallow dips in the ground (soil, snow or grass) known as 'forms'. (B147)
  • The majority of Lepus species live on the surface, but some do dig burrows or use tunnels and holes made by other animals. (B285.w5c)
  • Uses 'shelter forms' (small depressions within the ground or vegetation) to rest in during the day. Or may simply rest next to a plant. (B430.w2)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Specific Lepus microtis Information
  • "Transvaal - Somalia - Senegal." (B51)
  • This species is found from "...Mauritania and Senegal to southern Sudan and south to eastern South Africa and northern Namibia." (B147)
  • This species is found on the Atlantic coast of northwestern Africa. Eastwards, its distribution spreads across Sahel to Sudan and Ethiopia, and southwards it extends down through East Africa to northeastern Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. (B285.w5c, B607.w20)
  • "Small isolated population in W Algeria." (B607.w20)
  • "The African savanna hare occupies most of Africa south of the Sahara and north of South Africa, where it is replaced by the scrub hare L.saxatilis." (B605.4.w4)
  • An isolated population of this species lives near Beni Abbes in South Algeria. (B605.4.w4)
  • This species ranges from northern Cape Province to North Africa. (B605.4.w4)
  • Found in South Africa, Kenya and southern Sudan. There are relict populations in northeastern Sahara. (B285.w5c)

Geographic Sympatry

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Specific Lepus microtis Information
Currently recognised subspecies include:
  • Lepus microtis microtis: including crawshayi, kakumegae, raineyi, victoriae.
  • Lepus microtis angolensis;  including ansorgei; canopus; meridionalis; zairensis.
  • Lepus microtis senegalensis; including zechi.
  • Lepus microtis whytei; including herero; micklemi; zuluensis.

(B607.w20)

NB: names in non-bold font are reported as synonyms for that particular subspecies from the reference B607.w20.

Previously recognised subspecies include:

  • Lepus victoriae angolensis. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus victoriae canopus. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus victoriae crawshayi. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus victoriae raineyi. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus victoriae victoriae. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus victoriae whytei. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus victoriae zechi. (B605.4.w4)
  • "The species is widely sympatric with capensis [Lepus capensis - Cape hare], but allo- to parapatric with saxatilis (which is also sympatric with capensis sensu stricto), and with the small L.habessinicus [Lepus habessinicus - Abyssinian hare]." (B607.w20)

Note:

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Conservation Status

Notes

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • This species is widespread over much of Africa. (B605.4.w4)
  • Attention should be given to isolated populations, such as that found in Beni Abbes, southern Algeria. (B605.4.w4)
  • Locally common. (B285.w5c)

GENERAL LEGISLATION: --

CITES LISTING: --

RED-DATA LIST STATUS:

Specific Lepus microtis Information

  • IUCN - Lower Risk (least concern). (W2.Apr08.w23)

THREATS: --

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS: --

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: --

TRADE AND USE: --

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