Rabbit invasion shuts Mandela museum

CAPE TOWN Wed Oct 15, 2008 2:31pm EDT

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African's Robben Island museum will be closed while authorities cull a colony of rabbits that has invaded the site where Nelson Mandela was jailed.

Authorities said on Tuesday the museum, popular with tourists wanting to see the former president's cell, would be temporarily closed while the rabbits were killed to protect plant life and historical buildings at the World Heritage site.

"The current population is so large that it threatens to permanently damage the island's sensitive vegetation, and poses a serious threat to other fauna species," Seelan Naidoo, the museum's acting chief executive said in a statement.

He said the exact number of rabbits was unknown.

The culling would be followed by a sterilization programme to sustain a small, manageable rabbit population. The island museum, located offshore from Cape Town, will be closed from November 1 to 16.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf)

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