If any diseases can truly be called ‘Evil’, then myxomatosis must surely be one of them. The most terrible thing about it is that it was introduced deliberately into the UK as a measure to control a rabbit population on one estate. Control is too vague a description; exterminate is much closer to the truth. As diseases are no respecter of boundaries it quickly spread nationwide, consigning millions of rabbits to a slow and painful death.
The introduction may have been nearly 60 years ago but anyone who frequents the outdoors will see that it is still very active in our wild rabbit population. When a severely afflicted young rabbit turned up in our garden my wife’s heart immediately went out to it. Lesions and swellings covering its face rendered it almost totally blind and just as helpless. She took every opportunity to make sure it always had food and water nearby. I took the opportunity to photograph it. It is the saddest photograph that I have ever taken.
As is her way, she immediately gave it a name and christened it Poorly Bunny. I joined in with her game and called it Lumpy Bunny, much to her disgust. Neither of us thought that it would live more than a few more days. But it did.
After almost a week of being waited on hand and foot we spotted the first signs of swelling reduction. Then a sliver of the rabbit’s eyes became visible again and its alertness level picked up. Eventually Poorly/Lumpy would move off overnight before returning each morning and waiting patiently for breakfast to turn up. By now Margaret was well and truly trained to supply food and water on demand.
No longer a tiny youngster, it still occasionally visits our garden and will cautiously come up to Margaret and eat a few raisins from her hand, but dashes off at the first sign of an approach by me. If you click on the photograph you can see how things looked when we first saw it – be warned, it is not a pretty sight.
Margaret may have won the rabbit’s confidence, but I won the naming game. It is no longer poorly but there is still one small lump remaining on its nose.