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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Striped rabbit spotted in Sumatra
Sumatran striped rabbit
The elusive rabbit is rarely captured on camera
One of the rarest species of rabbit in the world has been spotted for only the third time in the last 35 years.

The Sumatran striped rabbit was photographed in late January on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Wildlife Conservation Society said.

The species is listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, due to loss of habitat.

The rabbit was previously photographed in 2000, with the last sighting by a scientist back in 1972.

Habitat risk

The 30cm-long rabbit was photographed by a camera trap in Bukit Barisan National Park, said Colin Poole, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Asia Program.

The sighting also highlighted the need to protect the habitat of the species, also known as Nesolagus netscheri, from threats such as farming, he said.

"This rabbit is so poorly known that any proof of its continued existence at all is great news, and confirms the conservation importance of Sumatra's forests," Mr Poole said.

Back in 1999, researchers discovered another species of striped rabbit in the Annamite Mountains between Laos and Vietnam, and named it the Annamite striped rabbit.

Genetic samples revealed the species were distinct, though closely related, most likely diverging about 8 million years ago.

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