By Teeny Teh
*some pictures may be rather graphic
and may not be suitable for children and immature audiences.
About 2 weeks ago, Lin, a volunteer with HRSS, notified
HRSS of a religious school at Winstedt Road, which kept
about 16 rabbits in their backyard. Over the phone,
she mentioned that the rabbit enclosure the school had,
was fairly big and had ample space for the rabbit residents
to run around. However, she felt that the living conditions
could be improved upon. We thus decided that it would
be a good idea for us to visit the place. Both to see
if the school was receptive to us giving them a few
ideas as to how it was possible to make the place more
comfortable for the rabbits, as well as to introduce
the need for sterilization if the rabbits there were
not already neutered and spayed.
Saturday, 21st August 2004 11:40am - Armed with fresh
vegetables and eagerness to see the 16 rabbits, Lin,
Sanz and myself arrived at the gates of Madrasah Al-Irsyad
Al-Islamiah. Not wanting to trespass, we made our way
along the outside perimeters of the school towards the
rabbit enclosure. Expecting to see 16 rabbits running
and lazing around, we were surprised to see only 3.
After seeking permission from the school office, introducing
ourselves and explaining our reason for coming to the
school, we were led to the enclosure by Nadiya, a teacher-in-
charge and Izzad, another teacher. The open-air enclosure
with walls made of wood frames and wire mesh, measured
about 4 meters by 6 meters and had a shelter at the
corner built from wood and plastic. This shelter had
an underground “basement” where, according
to the Nadiya, the rabbits love to dig and hide.
The ground was muddy and damp - probably due to the
yesterday’s downpour. We hurriedly cleaned the
soiled feeding bowls and dishes and filled them with
clean water, rabbit food and fresh vegetables.
2 of the female rabbits (1 white and 1 brown) tucked
appreciatively into the food, however 1 white male rabbit,
which was later identified by Nadiya as the oldest “Grandpa”
of the group, seemed traumatized and distraught for
some reason and refused to even come out of the “basement”.
And despite Sanz trying to feed him, he was unwilling
to eat a single bite. This greatly surprised the teachers
as they mentioned that all the rabbits usually greet
feeding time with great excitement and fervor. This
made us start to worry.
Both Nadiya and Izzad too, were shocked at the drastic
reduction in number rabbits, as they mentioned that
just yesterday afternoon all 16 rabbits were still running
around happily in the enclosure. This made the whole
situation even more puzzling. What could have happened
overnight? Causing the dramatic reduction in the number
of rabbits and for “Grandpa” to be so affected?
And where were the other 13? Thus, all of us started
looking around the school compound and the surrounding
area, hoping to find the 13 missing rabbits.
Hope started to falter, as 1 white rabbit was found
dead in the garden just 20 meters away from the enclosure.
Stiff and damp, he seemed to have been attacked as his
hind legs were chewed away. Even though there were flies
hovering about his carcass, his body had yet to decompose,
leading us to deduce that he most probably passed on
last night. We watched with heavy hearts as Izzad buried
Filled with apprehension and fear, we continued the
search for the other missing 12. However, after a thorough
search, we failed to find anymore.
Upon assembling at the enclosure again, we realized
that the rabbits had dug a burrow in their little basement.
Nadiya explained that these rabbits had a few litters
previously and she had seen baby rabbits slowly emerge
from this burrow.
Upon further inspection into their burrow, we sighted
white fur, thinking that it could be fur from a seasoned
mother rabbit’s nest thus, we used the camera
to get a better view. However, the photo revealed not
a litter of babies, but a distinct white adult rabbit’s
hind leg and the behind of a brown adult rabbit. We
look at each other in disbelief and worry. Were the
rabbits in there still alive? We tried to dangle food
at the entrance of the burrow but there was no response.
We figured then that perhaps then that they could be
afraid and were hiding inside (We wanted so badly to
believe that they were alive). Izzad then bravely put
his entire arm all the way into the burrow to “feel”
for the rabbits. He said he felt an ear and tugged at
it gently but there was no response from the rabbit.
We then feared the worst – they were most probably
After much deliberation, we decided to pull the rabbits
out. First was a light brown rabbit, which had a broken
front paw. He was cold and stiff and his eyes were still
open. The second one was a greyish brown rabbit. He
too had his eyes open. We were all taken aback by the
haunting scene – This was not what we were expecting
Izzad tried to feel around for more but the burrow
extended too far in for him to reach. Thus, we used
the camera to see if there were anymore and there it
was - the distinct coat of another rabbit. Izzad then
used a stick to gently nudge the rabbit, hoping for
some response, but all of us knew in our hearts that
this one did not stand a chance too. After more feeling
around the burrow, we concluded that any other rabbits
that were inside were already dead.
Thus, after the carcasses of the 2 rabbits were buried,
with the help of the teachers, Nadiya, Izzad and Muneer,
the entrance to the burrow was sealed up with soil,
giving the rest of the rabbit carcasses inside a burial
as well. 2 of the survivors even came to say their last
goodbyes before the entrance was sealed up. At that
point, we finally understood why “Grandpa”
was reacting the way he did - He witnessed his family
die right before his eyes.
Was it a cat that jumped into the enclosure causing
the rabbits to make a sudden dash for safety? Or could
it have been a snake? An owl or an eagle, which attacked
the white rabbit and caused the rest of them to “save
themselves”? If so, what caused the broken paw?
And why did the rest of them die in the burrow? Was
it due to suffocation? It’s a mystery.
If only “Grandpa” could speak.
21st August 2004 , 3pm: Lin will be
bringing “Grandpa” to the vet for a checkup
tomorrow (22nd August 2004, Sunday) to ensure he is
ok. And if he is fit enough, he will be sterilized.
22nd August 2004, 10am: The tragedy
continued as all 3 remaining “survivors”
including “Grandpa” were found dead in the
school garden. Cause of death unknown.
23rd August 2004, 1:30pm: A security
guard who was on duty on the night of 20th August 2004,
told us that 3 stray dogs came through the fence at
about 3 in the morning (of 21st August 2004). They somehow
managed to get into the hutch to attack the rabbits
- All 16 of them. Some of the rabbits were taken by
the dogs, while others were left to die in the burrow.
3 survived the ordeal – But only for a day. They
were attacked by the same 3 dogs again the following
In Conclusion: This has indeed been
a very unfortunate incident and we wish to send our
sincere condolences to the staff and students of the
school. They took good care of the rabbits, however,
we wish to remind all that despite love and care, accidents
still do, and will happen. So please, if you know of
anyone who keeps their pet rabbit outdoors or leaves
them unprotected out in the open, caution them that
they are exposing their pet (which by nature a prey
animal) to various dangers and predators like stray
dogs, cats, snakes, owls etc. This, amongst many others,
is one of the reasons the House Rabbit Society (Singapore)
encourages all pet rabbits to be kept indoors.
Lin with Nadiya at the rabbit enclosure.
2 of the 'survivors' munching
on the veggies we brought.
A traumatized "Grandpa"
refusing to eat.
The rabbit carcass found with
no hind legs.
Sanz pointing to the burrow.
The picture which showed us that
there were rabbits in the burrow.
The 2 rabbit carcasses which
we pulled out from the burrow. The brown one's front
paw was broken.
The 2 'survivors' saying goodbye before Muneer
sealed up the entrance.