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  • Writer's pictureRae Gellel

Rabbit Rescued After 70-Mile Round Trip in Car Engine

Before noon today, our volunteers had already transported three birds to South Essex Wildlife Hospital and been called out on three separate rescues - involving a rabbit who had hitchhiked in a car engine all the way from Camber Sands, a drowning goose entangled in netting, and ducklings stranded on a roof terrace.

Firstly, the rabbit. This morning we received an unusual report of a rabbit wandering in a busy road in Plumstead. Since wild rabbits are not common locally, we assumed that it must be an escaped pet, and that the rescue would be quick and straightforward. How wrong we were.

When our volunteer arrived, she spotted the wild-coloured rabbit nibbling some flowers at the roadside. Before she could approach however, the rabbit shot under a car and promptly vanished. It had climbed up into the car's innards.

What then ensued was several hours of attempts to remove the bunny from the car by five volunteers. Mid-way through this drama, the car's owners appeared and solved the mystery of the rabbit's origins. They had recently visited Camber Sands and had spotted a rabbit near the car. The animal must have climbed inside the car, possibly drawn to the warmth of the engine - and had inadvertently hitched a ride all the way back to London with them! We have heard of this happening with cats, but never rabbits, and it's a miracle she was not badly burned by the car's engine or injured by the fan.

In spite of having cinema tickets booked, the car's owner and his young son sacrificed their day out so that we could continue our rescue attempts. They even bought some greens to help lure the rabbit out. They could not have been more helpful or obliging and we are very grateful to them.

Initially, we were squeezing under the car, attempting to search the many nooks and crannies with torches in the very cramped and uncomfortable space. This proved utterly hopeless (and made us realise we need to invest in an endoscopic camera). When the car's owners appeared, we were able to pop the bonnet, and did catch glimpses of the rabbit, squeezed in the small compartments around the engine, but there was not enough space to grab him or her. Finally, we began calling around local garages, hoping for a loan of a car jack. SMaRT Garage Services in Woolwich and Merlin Motors both offered use of a car jack for free, and we eventually collected one from Merlin Motors, so owe both a big thank you.

With the car jack, we were then able to lift the car, and then have our very skilled volunteer Daniel remove the plate beneath the engine. This provided a little more access, but it still did not mean a quick and easy capture.

We had committed to rescue the ducklings I mentioned earlier at 11.30, and were already extremely late. Meanwhile, there was three hours of medicating, cleaning cages and feeding of animals that hadn't even been started yet, as the team were so tied up. So Fran and I departed for the duckling rescue, leaving Peter, Krisztina and Daniel to continue their attempts whilst my mum, Lisa, got the cleaning started. Phew.

Whilst we were off rescuing ducks, another hour of trying to get the rabbit out ensued. Finally, with Daniel under the car and Peter over the bonnet, there was enough of an opportunity for Peter to grab the rabbit.

And that's how one bunny was safely removed from a car engine, and gained the name Peter rabbit! What a nightmare.

Peter - the rabbit, not the volunteer! - is very young but is old enough to be living independently, so we will be sending a volunteer to take him home in the coming days - back to Camber Sands and the exact spot where he is suspected to have so unwisely chosen to take a nap in a bloody car engine.

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