The European rabbit costing more than $200 million in lost agricultural production annually

A threatened possum.
A threatened possum.

The European rabbit is Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing more than $200 million in lost agricultural production annually andwreaking havoc on the environment and biodiversity, impacting on 304 threatened native plant and animal species.

February 2017 marks a huge turning point in pest rabbit management for Australia, with the national mail out of information to drive the release of RHDV1 K5, the Korean strain of a naturally-occurring rabbit virus first released here in 1996. NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) invasive species manager, Quentin Hart, said information kits have this month been mailed to 265 community release sites in NSW, prior to the March release of RHDV1 K5.

“The community is leading and managing the strategic release of the virus across NSW, with support from NSW DPI and Local Land Services,” Mr Hart said.

“Three intensive management sites near Orange, Gundagai and Hay, linked with the community-led sites, will be managed and monitored by NSW DPI and Local Land Services.”

RABBITS: The Department of Primary Industries have menacing rabbits in their sights. Photo: FAIRFAX MEDIA.

RABBITS: The Department of Primary Industries have menacing rabbits in their sights. Photo: FAIRFAX MEDIA.

Information kits include specific instructions on how to manage and monitor rabbit control programs, including RHDV1 K5 and conventional management.

NSW DPI advises rabbit owners to vaccinate domestic rabbits and provide additional protection against the virus and myxomatosis by keeping rabbits inside or in insect-proof enclosures. Pet owners should contact a veterinarian for advice on how to protect their rabbits, with online information available from the Australian Veterinary Association http://www.ava.com.au/rabbit-calicivirus

Release of RHDV1 K5 is planned nationally in the first week of March 2017 as part of Australia’s 20-year plan to reduce negative impacts on agriculture, the environment and communities through managing rabbit populations.

The European rabbit is Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing more than $200 million in lost agricultural production annually and wreaking havoc on the environment and biodiversity, affecting 304 threatened native plant and animal species. National release of RHDV1 K5 has been delivered through the Invasive Animals CRC, with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and NSW governments, CSIRO, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia.

More information is available online, www.healthierlandscapes.org.au