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Nature Life: Rabbits And The Environment

Rabbits, also known as bunnies or bunny rabbits, are small mammals in the family Leporidae, which is in the order Lagomorpha.

Rabbits are born without fur and with closed eyes after a gestation period of 30–31 days. They prefer habitats composed of trees and shrubs, where they live in burrows dug into the soil. Non-burrowing rabbits make surface nests called forms, generally under dense protective cover.

The long ears of rabbits are most likely an adaptation for detecting predators. In addition to their prominent ears, which can measure up to 6 cm (more than 2 inches) long, rabbits have long, powerful hind legs and a short tail. Each foot has five digits. Rabbits move about on the tips of the digits in a fashion known as digitigrade locomotion.

Most rabbits are relatively solitary and sometimes territorial, coming together only to breed or occasionally to forage in small groups. During territorial disputes rabbits will sometimes “box,” using their front limbs. Rabbits are active throughout the year; no species is known to hibernate.

Rabbits are generally nocturnal, and they also are relatively silent. Other than loud screams when frightened or caught by a predator, the only auditory signal known for most species is a loud foot thump made to indicate alarm or aggression. A notable exception is the volcano rabbit of Mexico, which utters a variety of calls.

Scientists say scent seems to play a predominant role in the communication systems of most rabbits; they possess well-developed glands throughout their body and rub them on fixed objects to convey group identity, sex, age, social and reproductive status, and territory ownership.

Igbos call it “Ewi”, Hausas call it “zomaye”, while Yorubas call it “ehoro.”

Rabbits must consume plant material in large quantities to ensure proper nutrition, and thus they have large digestive tracts. Their diet, consisting primarily of grasses and forbs (herbs other than grasses), contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest. Rabbits solve this problem by passing two distinctive types of feces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets, the latter of which are immediately eaten.

Chewed plant material collects in the large cecum, a secondary chamber between the large and small intestine containing large quantities of symbiotic bacteria that aid in the digestion of cellulose and also produce certain B vitamins. The soft feces form here and contain up to five times the vitamins of hard feces. After being excreted, they are eaten by the rabbit and redigested in a special part of the stomach.

This double-digestion process enables rabbits to utilize nutrients that they may have missed during the first passage through the gut and thus ensures that maximum nutrition is derived from the food they eat.

A standard rabbit has also been shown to produce an average of 3.6 kg CO2 eq/kg live weight, which is similar to the CO2 emissions from pigs, but significantly less compared with those of beef cows. The wild rabbits may live for an average of one to two years, while domesticated rabbits can live between 8 to 12 years.

Rabbits provide ecological benefits as an important member of the food web. By consuming plants, rabbits keep plant life in check. They are also an important food source for many carnivorous predators, particularly bobcats.

The Tortoise and The Rabbit

Once upon a time, Nnabe, the Tortoise, and the rabbit were chatting when the Tortoise suddenly declared, “I bet I can beat you in a race.” The rabbit was stunned for a minute. He wasn’t sure he heard his friend correctly. “Did you say something about a race?” He asked. The tortoise elaborated, “Yes, I challenge you to a race, and I want all the animals present to witness your defeat.”

This cracked up the rabbit; he started to laugh. “This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” he said. “It will take you many years to cover the distance I can run in one day. It is silly to race against you. Everyone knows that I will win.”

But the Tortoise won’t have that, he pleaded with the rabbit until he accepted to race, and a date was fixed for the race between the two.

The day of the race came, and several animals came to witness the start of the race. There were also several animals waiting at the finish line.

The race began, and the rabbit hurried away, eager to get the race over with. The rabbit still thought it was ridiculous to be competing against the slow Tortoise in a race. But what the rabbit didn’t know was that the Tortoise had positioned his cousins along the race path while he waited near the finish line.

As the rabbit turned the corner around the forest path, he saw the Tortoise walking ahead of him. “What?! This is impossible!” he exclaimed. “How did you get here?” he asked.

“Though I stroll when I run fast, I run so fast you don’t even see me pass you,” Tortoise relatives replied. “Impossible!” Muttered the rabbit as he ran ahead of that tortoise.

The rabbit started to run faster. As he turned another corner in the forest path, he again saw the Tortoise walking ahead of him. “How did you get in front of me again?” He asked.

“Though I stroll when I run fast, I run so fast you don’t even see me pass you? Tortoise’s relatives replied as he slowly walked along. “Impossible!” Muttered the rabbit as he ran past the Tortoise.

The rabbit started to run even faster. Again, he turned a corner and saw another Tortoise walking ahead of him. “Oh, no! This cannot be happening,” Thought the rabbit as he ran past that tortoise. He wasn’t going to stop to talk anymore. He tried to run even faster but he couldn’t because he was getting tired.

Then, as he turned the corner to run the last stretch of the race, he saw Tortoise walking across the finish line ahead of him. “Impossible! Impossible!!” He yelled, but the Tortoise was declared the winner of the race.

 

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