Take one cursory glance around the UEA broads on any given day and you’ll realise the phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ certainly comes from a true place where the miniature mammals are concerned.
No late-night trekking to the LCR is complete without a squeal from a member of your group at the sight of a cotton tail bobbing up and down in the distance, and any casual game of catch by the lake is framed by that extra danger of getting your foot caught in a hidden rabbit hole. But how long have these bunnies been around?
Dr Diana Bell, senior lecturer and researcher at UEA’s school of Biological Sciences, has conducted the longest worldwide study of the universityís rabbit population, compiling almost 35 years of research data.
There is also a reason, she explains, why there always seems to be more rabbits around in the springtime – but if you’re a rabbit fan, you aren’t going to like the answer. An annual outbreak of the Myxomatosis virus, detected only in rabbits as far back as the mid-19th century, kills “between 60-100 percent” of the campus cottontails, Bell has observed. But not to worry, they’re a hardy bunch, despite slight dips in reproduction levels over the last ten years.
As it turns out, our university’s rabbit population has gathered some star-studded interest over the last twenty-five years. BBCís Springwatch and the One Show in 2012 spent several days both overtly and covertly filming the rabbits in their natural habitats, including under ‘Kett Hill’/ ‘Waveney Mountain’ by Colman House.
According to Dr Bell in an interview with the Eastern Daily Press in 2012, the teams were “impressed that the rabbits were not disturbed by the large amount of people who are on campus daily, including the students who were playing frisbee next to them.”
It’s unsurprising that the rabbit is considered the unofficial animal mascot of UEA. They can be found everywhere on campus, and although they’re comfortable enough around us students, being skilled enough to catch one immediately elevates you to god-like status.
It isn’t such a bad thing for the animal to be representative of the student population; rabbits are happy to eat anything if its free, enjoy running around for no apparent reason, and are often wide awake at ridiculous hours of the day and night. Sound familiar?
The UEA rabbits, which in their years on campus have inspired social media accounts, works of art and even conspiracy theories are an institution which make UEA really stand out. Long live the rabbits!