Madrid – The alert generated by the unusual and massive number of rabbits that is causing damage to crops in different CCAA according to agricultural organizations “can not be described as a plague” nor can “generalize the concept of hybrid rabbits,” has assured EFE biologist and environmental consultant Francisco J. Martin Barranco.
The Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG) confirmed this week the concern of farmers about what its website defines as a “Jurassic Park rabbit in the Spanish countryside” caused by an “unprecedented plague of hybrid rabbits”, aggravated by drought.
These hybrids, according to the cereal producer in Zaragoza and responsible for Environment and Wildlife in the COAG executive, Javier Fatás, are a mixture of wild and domestic rabbits, of “greater size, voracity and procreation capacity”, and already affect more than 1,400 municipalities in 10 Autonomous Communities with losses of more than 800 million euros in a million hectares.
The irresponsibility of their owners, who “when they get tired of them as pets, throw them into the countryside” and the inefficiency of the administrations that “try to artificially shape the natural world by allowing their uncontrolled proliferation to feed endangered species” are, in the opinion of the agricultural organizations, the main causes of this crisis.
Another member of COAG, Pedro Gomáriz, has called for “exceptional measures in view of the current insufficient results” and warned that the rise in temperatures and the absence of rain will aggravate the problem “until the summer with these animals devastating wild flora and entering crop areas” of vegetables, cereals, legumes, fruit trees, vineyards, olive groves or almond trees, with the added threat of “triggering other types of diseases and pests such as ticks”.
Without denying the problem, Martin Barranco has pointed out that the term “plague” cannot be used because despite the number of affected regions (Aragon, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Catalonia, La Rioja, Navarra, Community of Madrid, Region of Murcia, Community of Valencia and Andalusia) it does not extend throughout the Spanish geography.
In addition, he affirms that “we can only speak of hybridization in very specific cases” since most of the specimens belong to the ‘Oryctolagus cunniculus’, a species “genetically identical to the common rabbit” and, with respect to its current density, he relates it to “the season of births that is taking place at the moment” but this circumstance “will decrease in a few months” and also “being the target of so many predators, they do not last at all in the natural environment”.
The common rabbit has “a key function in Mediterranean ecosystems”, he insisted, since it constitutes “the main prey that serves as sustenance, fundamentally, to vulnerable species or at risk of disappearing”, from lynxes to birds of prey.
In the case of Catalonia, the animal rights party PACMA, the association of lawyers specialized in animal law Lex Anima and the protective organization Fundación Altarriba have accused the Generalitat of “incoherence” in a press release for activating the hunting emergency and authorizing the use of biocides to kill these animals.
Eva Ramos, legal advisor of PACMA, has pointed out that the Catalan administration itself “provoked the overpopulation of rabbits, authorizing and allowing their breeding in hunting farms and their subsequent release, being a species with a high reproduction rate”.
Animalists point out that more than 12,000 rabbits from these farms were released in 2021 to repopulate hunting grounds “under the knowledge and authorization” of the autonomous government and add that the biocide to be used is aluminum phosphide that “would have harmful consequences for the trophic chain due to its high impact on biodiversity”, given the high toxicity and null selectivity of the product.
The warning includes the example of the use of other toxic substances, such as chlorophacinone and bromadiolone in Castilla y León between 2006 and 2014 to reduce the population of the vole that “caused the debacle of the red partridge, the Iberian hare and the poisoning of birds of prey, such as red kites, buzzards or kestrels, and carnivores, such as foxes and weasels”.
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