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The call of the wild
The call of the wild

She is a cute little bunny but I wish I could tell, from where I stand, how many litters she has carried. No female rabbit will advertise this. This would be fair enough, though. How can we expect to optimise the whole reproductive process if the barest facts are kept hidden out of misplaced modesty?

We are getting scarce. We catch all sorts of plagues. We lose most of our litters to predators. We find big, bellicose and prolific rats in our warrens. This has to stop and I have a solution. But who wants to listen to a lonely rabbit?

Not so long ago, a white guy tumbled down our family hole. White is a manner of speaking: he was mostly dirty. Loose skin hung from his neck and belly, as he had lost too much fat to look healthy. He told me he was a fugitive from a farm, where he had been employed as a stud. His story was a male fantasy come true. Every day but Sunday, females were brought to him and he was required to perform the age-old routine. He had to repeat his efforts until the females got pregnant. For this, he had free food, free lodgings and free medical care. The goal, he said, was to create a superior strain of rabbit, a strong, fast-growing, germ-resistant one that would one day dominate the planet. For this, breeding had been turned into an art. Everything was carefully and thoroughly recorded, planned, organised. Nothing was left to instinct or randomness.

If he had quit, that was only because there had been some rumours about the management replacing the older studs. Since nobody knew exactly what became of the culled males, he had freaked out and fled the place. Since them, he had been on the lam, losing weight because of the unusual fat-free, grass-only diet. His white coat had been a problem at first, but a couple of rainy days had produced enough mud to take care of his excessive prominence.

Though I didn't know what to make of the culling problem, the breeding part caught my attention. So there were places where we bred under control. Super-rabbits, ha. No wonder caged bunnies were outnumbering us. The wild ones had to be told. We had to change our ways, start doing it using our little-tapped scientific mind. And the first step was to collect data about our reproductive performances. Who had mated with whom. How many times had it taken for a litter to follow suit. What was the litter size. How many litters a breeder had produced. And so on. The way to our renewed glory would be paved with statistics.

But these were novel ideas, and the reception by my fellow rabbits was lukewarm, verging on chilly. My brain-dead cousins told me bluntly to forget about it. If I wanted to record everything, why didn't I just enlist in a farm, they said. The wild community wouldn't miss my genes so much.

So here I am, on the wrong side of the 4-lane, wondering if crossing over is the right thing to do. She is cute all right. The cars speed by, big fast shiny things on wheels that have turned many a prospective lover into red furry pulp. For all the generations of rabbits that have been through this dilemma, torn between fear and desire, it cannot be said that natural selection has made us better at