We will be having two very special guest speakers. We are very happy to announce that Margo DeMello, President of the International House Rabbit Society, is coming to Madison to speak at our Bunny Day this year. Margo is the author or editor of over twelve books, including Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature. Her most recent book is Mourning Animals: Rituals and Practices Surrounding Animal Death. The title of her talk for us is “A Real World Watership Down: The Rabbits of Ōkunoshima?” In 2015 Margo led a small group of researchers to Ōkunoshima, an island off of the coast of Southern Japan, in order to study the large population of feral rabbits (domestic rabbits who have returned to the wild) living there since at least the 1970s. She will speak about the ways that the rabbits altered the island to accommodate their expanding population, including partitioning the island among rabbit groups and creating relationships and effective communication among themselves and with the human tourists (no humans live on the island) on whom they largely depend for survival. Margo’s talk will compare the rabbits of Ōkunoshima with the rabbits of the novel and film Watership Down and will conclude with a discussion about how these two groups—one wild and fictional, and the other feral and real—help us to better understand our own companion rabbits.
Dave Stevenson is Research Specialist in the Department of Bacteriology at U.W., Madison. He has a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology and has worked in the field of microbial genetics and biochemistry since 1989. He has been active in WHRS since 2002, working at various times as educator, bunny foster, and membership coordinator. Dave lives in Madison with his spouse Connie Deanovich and Tulip-Marie, a New Zealand White. His talk will tell the story of rabbit domestication, but from a whole new angle—the scientific evidence of DNA. As Dave explains, when the costs for whole genome DNA sequencing became sufficiently inexpensive for groups to start looking at “lesser” domestic animals such as rabbits, they found that DNA evidence told a new story about where rabbits really came from (and when) and what was necessary (genetically) for them to become domestic. Dave’s talk–“How Rabbits Became ‘Pets’: New Evidence from DNA”–is about the actual population of wild rabbits that gave us our domestic companion bunnies.
This year at Bunny Day we will have interactive educational displays to test your knowledge of rabbit diet, basic environment, enrichment and play, and grooming and health care. We will have a Bunny Spa for nail trims (but please leave your rabbit at home unless she intends to visit the spa). As always, we will have the Bun Shoppe, and this year we will have the new 2018 calendars (without the shipping fee), tee-shirts with a new WHRS design, lots of bunny toys and treats, rabbit-themed gifts, and hay, hay, hay. We hope to add lunch items to our Nibble Nook, which before now has only had deserts. And we hope to have outdoor seating for pleasant eating and visiting during the intermission between talks.