Deformed Japanese rabbit prompts fallout fears
Published 15/06/2011 | 05:00
An albino rabbit born with no ears has prompted new concerns in Japan about radiation levels from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The rabbit was born on May 7 in the town of Namie, which is just outside the 18-mile exclusion zone that has been imposed around the crippled plant, its owner, Yuko Sugimoto, said.
The discovery triggered new concerns in Japan about the levels of radiation released into the atmosphere since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
"I have been raising rabbits for more than 10 years and this is the first time something like this has happened," Ms Sugimoto said.
The rabbit appears to have clear signs of albinism -- a pure white coat and red eyes -- that are the result of mutations in several genes.
Experts said that it was uncommon for rabbits to be born with no ears, but not unheard of.
"It can happen when the doe tries to pull her young out during birth and the ears can come away from the head," said Susan Mason, secretary of the British Rabbit Council.
Images of the rabbit have inevitably caused concern, however, and coincide uncomfortably with the announcement by Tokyo Electric Power that levels of radioactive strontium around 240 times the legal limit have been detected in seawater samples taken near the plant. (© Daily Telegraph, London)