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SOURCE: Mexico News Daily

DATE: February 13, 2020

SNIP: The critically endangered Volcano Rabbit lives only on 3 or 4 volcano mountain peaks in Mexico, inhabiting high elevation grassland and open forested habitats that are under myriad threats. Now social media-promoted treks to view a once year phenomenon involving three peaks appearing to be one as the sun rises is wreaking havoc with its habitat.

The massive influx of tourists to a México state national park each February to observe a phenomenon that involves a trio of volcanic peaks represents a threat to the habitat of the highly endangered volcano rabbit, says the Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp).

More than 3,500 people climbed Mount Tláloc in the Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl National Park last weekend to view the phenomenon known as montaña fantasma (phantom mountain) in which for a period of just 15 minutes at sunrise, the Malinche volcano in Tlaxcala, the Pico de Orizaba volcano in Veracruz and the Sierra Negra volcano in Puebla appear to merge on the horizon to form one continuous mountain range.

Visitor numbers to watch the montaña fantasma phenomenon from the peak of Mount Tláloc began to grow in 2012 and exploded in 2017 due to growing awareness generated by social media, the newspaper Milenio reported.

After last weekend’s influx, Conanp said that the large number of visitors damaged alpine grasslands inhabited by the volcano rabbit, a species endemic to Mexico known also as the teporingo or zacatuche.

The teporingo, the world’s second smallest rabbit after the pygmy, was declared extinct last year in the vicinity of the Nevado de Toluca, a volcano in México state.

Conanp also said that shrubs such as the long-living juniper, known as enebro azul, were trampled on and even used by visitors to make bonfires.