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What is killing UK hares?

Researchers at UEA have launched a campaign to raise vital funds for collaborative research into the unprecedented high incidence of hare deaths across the UK.

They hope to raise £120,000 to investigate the cause of hare deaths following reports of sick and dead hares from members of the public.

The team, led by UEA Prof Diana Bell, has already identified the first UK cases of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) – which had ‘jumped’ to hares.

Now, they want to map the spread of the disease, and see what other diseases could be behind the deaths.

Dr Bell, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “We have received over 750 location reports of dead or dying hares from members of the public across the UK from northern Scotland to the Kent coast and from East Anglia to Devon and Wales.

“We are enormously grateful for the continuing tremendous response from the British public in reporting dead hares to us and helping us collect them for post mortems.

“This has been a great example of ‘citizen science’ and has highlighted how passionate people are about this charismatic mammal.

“We could not have envisaged the scale of these mortalities nine months ago and urgently need help to maintain and map their distribution, collect and store bodies securely, and provide diagnostic testing - both post mortem examinations and molecular tests in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Cambridge.

“This will allow us to identify any other pathogens circulating and understand the epidemiology of these and RHDV2.

“This information is crucial to inform long-term efforts to conserve our hares which have already shown a marked decline in many parts of the country.”

For more information or donate to this research, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hares-diana-bell-uea-research

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