High rabbit abundance proves detrimental to the population growth rate in European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) extensive breeding enclosures

L. Ruiz-Aizpurua, J. Guerrero-Casado, A. J. Carpio, F. S. Tortosa

Abstract

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) is a key prey species in Mediterranean ecosystems that has declined in its natural ranges as a result of diseases and loss of habitat. This situation has led to the production of wild rabbits in enclosures in which they can acclimate and breed. The efficiency of these enclosures as extensive breeding systems is defined by their population growth rate (PGR). The aim of this study is to analyse the effect of rabbit abundance on the PGR. This has been done by creating general linear models to explain autumn and spring PGR with the use of rabbit abundance estimates, enclosure size, aerial predation and previous PGR as possible explanatory variables. Rabbit abundance and enclosure size negatively affected the autumn PGR, while only rabbit abundance affected the spring PGR in the best-fit models. It is suggested that maintaining rabbit densities at fewer than 30 rabbits per hectare might help to optimise the efficiency inside enclosures.


Keywords

density-dependent breeding; extensive breeding system; social behaviour

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References

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