Although there are around 40 species of hares in the world divided into three different genera (Lepus, Caprolagus, and Pronolagus), only six species inhabit Europe, all belonging to genus Lepus. The conservation status of these six species was recently revised in the International Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Lepus castroviejoi and L. corsicanus were attributed the status of “vulnerable”. The other four species, L. europaeus, L. timidus, L. capensis, and L. granatensis, were considered of “least concern” although a declining trend was recognized for the last two species’ wild populations. Here we review the major threats to the hare species in Europe, with emphasis on infectious diseases. Furthermore, we present the sanitary data regarding the Iberian hare populations from Portugal, which were severely affected by the emergence of a naturally occurring recombinant myxoma virus (MYXV), first reported in mid-2018. The recent detection in 2019 of a leporid herpesvirus (LeHV-5), which pathogenicity appears to be exacerbated in MYXV-infected hares, brings additional concerns to the health and conservation of the Iberian hare.
Part of the book: Lagomorpha Characteristics
Wild leporids have been gaining interest and prominence in the scientific and social community worldwide. While endangered of extinction in its native territory, the Iberian Peninsula, where it has a key role in the Mediterranean ecosystems, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is considered a plague in Australia, due to the great economic and ecological consequences of its presence in the territories. The impact of viral diseases on the Leporidae family’ members, namely on the European rabbit, has been largely recognized worldwide since the early 50s, due to the emergence of myxomatosis and, from the mid-80s onwards, due to the emergence of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 1 and 2. More recently, in 2018, a recombinant myxoma virus emerged with the ability to infect and cause severe disease in the Iberian hare (Lepus ganatensis). Also, a new gammaherpesvirus was described in Iberian hares, associated with myxoma virus infections. In this chapter, we revise the main viral infectious treats to the native leporids of the Iberian Peninsula. The recovery of the European rabbit populations, as well as of other leporid species around the world, is currently a major challenge for the scientific and social communities and policy-makers. If we fail, the ripple effects on the trophic web will be so dramatic that are likely to be unrecoverable.
Part of the book: Viral Outbreaks