When i was around five or six years old, my parental ordered a collection of wildlife encyclopaedias which arrived by article once a week. Ns remember the first one showing up in a slim brown cardboard box. My brother and also I huddled v my mother on the bed as she opened up it. The covering featured one aardvark – the alphabetical an initial in any animal encyclopaedia.

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The photographs to be what do these books amazing. At the moment they featured modern wildlife photography, with exceptionally intimate images of whatever from cat birds to duck-billed platypus.

But there to be some species that weren’t stood for by photographs but by coloured illustrations. Over there were just a few, however I constantly remembered these types because the implicit was the they to be rare, unseen – perhaps on the leaf of extinction – and also this offered them an virtually mythical quality.

The brand-new Zealand huia to be one – an unexplained bird v a curved beak and very affectionate nature between pairs, i beg your pardon mated for life; the Sumatran striped rabbit was another. The huia was never seen again and is now taken into consideration extinct. The Sumatran strip rabbit, the seems, was simply elusive and unknown, living covert in the deepest, wettest mountain woodlands of Sumatra.

Scavenging for clues

Years later, I found myself living in Sumatra and working because that Fauna & Flora worldwide (FFI) in Kerinci Seblat national Park. Ns learned that even 25 years on native my very first encounter with the Sumatran striped rabbit illustration there to be still no photo of a life animal; in truth no researchers had seen it since 1972, and before that not for countless years.

Occasionally us met locals who asserted to have actually seen them. They all stated it was a stupid animal, very easy come approach and just pick up – a characteristic common by the unfortunate huia, which probably aided secure its path to extinction.

Sluggish and also unconcerned by humans: it no sound much like the type of rabbits ns knew, i m sorry disappeared in a flash at the slightest authorize of movement. Yet then the Sumatran striped rabbit wasn’t a common rabbit. It live in thick rainforest because that a start, whereas many rabbits are discovered in open grassy areas. It had small ears and, many remarkably, a beautiful striped cloak of brown and cream, favor an arts deco clock.

I chose to shot and gain the first photograph and learn something much more about this almost forgotten creature. Adhering to up on a sighting made by a Sumatran friend, I put a collection of camera catch in the location he had seen two rabbits eating fallen fruit. When searching for pets that are poorly known, it is crucial to use every little thing scant information one can gain on your habits.

Rhacophorus poecilonotus – another endemic species from Sumatra. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI.

The fallen fruit was a clue. Nobody was sure what the rabbit fed on yet fallen fruit seemed as most likely as something else, so for bait I chose a an especially aromatic type of guava that remained in fruit at the time and also placed 5 kg around the cameras. Three days later I went earlier to look. Every the fruit had actually gone, but the film showed only woodland rats making recurring sorties to steal the guavas. I rebaited and tried again.

I had actually placed the camera trap on an extinct volcano at in between 1,800 and also 2,100 metres over sea level – the known habitat that the rabbit. Every time i baited the cameras I had to make the climb v 5 kg the fruit. And each time i came earlier with more pictures of rats. I acquired civets and also a rarely pheasant, too, yet no rabbits.

Elephants further facility the task. Two tamed elephants resided in the forests at the basic of the volcano. They to be supposedly tame, but living semi-wild had actually made castle unpredictable. They had actually learned that ns was making regular trips v a backpack full of odoriferous fruit, and they started to ambush me along the trail. That became much more and more challenging to outwit them. A couple of guavas actors in the opposite direction together I tried come scurry previous no longer worked. They wanted the lot, and the pilgrimage was acquiring dangerous.

Perseverance pays

After virtually two months I got to the suggest of providing up. The challenging climb up the mountain every couple of days, the rats and also the elephants make me think ns was wasting my time. The guavas were acquiring harder come find, too.

I do one critical visit, there is no a backpack complete of fruit, breezing previous the elephants there is no trouble, to eliminate the cameras. Ago in city I processed the film and discovered that on this last expedition we had acquired the first picture of Sumatran striped rabbit. The was small in the frame and not one award-winning image, yet the animal was caught in mid hop, and very plainly a rabbit, despite its little ears and also dense tropical home. It showed to it is in the very first photograph that this elusive animal.

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Fifteen year later and also I am earlier in Kerinci setup cameras again (this time video camera traps) and hoping to learn an ext about the rabbit. Newly we gained FFI’s an initial moving clip of Sumatran striped rabbit, hopping about the woodland floor – not award-winning quality footage, yet it’s a start.