Run, rabbit, run!
Adults and kids see many things in very different ways, especially when it comes to animals. The parkland around Helsinki’s Töölö Bay is a kind of Central Park where residents of the Finnish capital come to stroll, sunbathe, picnic or play. But as darkness descends, the park is taken over by rabbits –lots of them.I see a small boy squealing with delight at the cute bunnies happily hopping here, there and everywhere. His mother tries in vain to tell him that this scene is not as idyllic as it seems.
More than 600 alien species have so far been found in Finland, and climate change may speed the arrival of many more. Mass proliferations of unwanted newcomers can be prevented if problems are addressed promptly. Helsinki’s fi rst feral rabbits were spotted many years ago, but the authorities did not get to grips with the problem soon enough.
Rabbits are not naturally found in the wild in Finland. Their sudden proliferation in Helsinki’s greener districts has given the city council’s parks department a serious headache. As in many other urban areas around the world, Helsinki’s rapidly reproducing rabbits are widely destroying trees, shrubs and ornamental plants.
The authorities have tried to limit their numbers using guns, traps, nets and even trained ferrets, but with little success. During the first half of 2009 more than a thousand of Helsinki’s “city bunnies” have been humanely exterminated. But experts reckon that there are still as many as 10,000 rabbits on the loose around the capital. What might the little boy think if he found out that the carcasses of the culled bunnies are fed to the hungry lions in Helsinki Zoo? There are some things it’s best not to know...
By Riitta Ekholm
Photo Miika Kainu