Islands capture our imagination. Surrounded by beautiful water and floating in warm weather, they attract humans. The Florida Keys are an example of this human desire for living in a warm and beautiful world with nature all around. For the specialized that adapt to the native ecology of a small space, rapid changes are threats to a limited world.
‘Islands are where species go to die’. David Quammen wrote. Perhaps meaning islands are where margins are slim and unforgiving. In the last 400 years, about half of all species extinctions were island species. Even to species known for their ability to breed: Rabbits.
The Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) of the Florida Keys persist with the usual threats. Like introduced animals. In the Florida Keys this means domestic cats roaming the wild as lethal predators. Roadways, habitat development, and sea level rise shrink and fragment available space. This tiny little rabbit is boxed in. The best remaining habitat is within the gates of the Naval Air Station at Boca Chita Key. A place designed to protect humans is this rabbits’ best refuge.
‘To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering’. Aldo Leopold
Like the combat fighter aircraft at this air station, island ecology can not afford to have the most minute part go missing. War machines, like ecosystems, must have all their parts or disaster is likely.
This is a rabbit. Notorious for their ability to populate exponentially, these rabbits can not reproduce at a rate to get themselves off the endangered species list. The magnitude of threats are so acute, even the reproductive efficiency of a rabbit can not outpace extinction in the Florida Keys.
This short film documenting Marsh Rabbit research in the Florida Keys is one of the first Florida adventures for Into Nature Films.
Enjoy this peek into the world of the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit filmed in June 2008. Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex