Pest rabbits causing $30 million in damage annually to South Australian agricultural production will be targeted as part of an upcoming release of the calicivirus RHDV1 K5.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said release of the virus will combat feral rabbits which continue to have significant impacts on our environment and agricultural industries.
“Rabbits are a major burden for farmers, consuming crops and pastures at the expense of $30 million per year to our state’s agricultural industries and threaten the survival of more than 300 plant and animal species,” said Minister Whetstone.
“It is important we continue to control wild rabbits and RHDV1 K5 has already proven to be an effective tool.
“The aim of this latest virus release, funded as part of the Morrison Coalition Government’s Agricultural Competiveness White Paper, is to conduct landscape-scale reductions of rabbit populations.
“This initiative follows an initial nation-wide release of the virus in March 2017 which led to a sizeable reduction in wild rabbit numbers.
“The state rabbit control co-ordinator, Mr Josh Rosser, will work with landholders to ensure the effectiveness of this virus release and will encourage communities to undertake complementary pest rabbit eradication activities such as warren ripping.
“Unfortunately rabbits multiply quickly. Two breeding rabbits can have 200 descendants in just two years, and within four years their number of descendants can explode to 40,000.”
Minister Whetstone reminded people to vaccinate pet and domestic rabbits.
“In the lead up to the release of the virus in September, pet rabbit owners and commercial rabbit farmers should ensure vaccinations for their animals are up to date,” said Minister Whetstone.
“The government wants to destroy pest rabbits but not people’s household pet rabbits nor commercial rabbit herds.
“The calicivirus vaccine, which is administered by vets, is effective against the RHDV1 K5 strain and will help protect domestic rabbits. Pet rabbits should also be kept enclosed and safely away from contact with wild rabbits and biting insects following the virus release.”
For further information on the forthcoming RHDV1 K5 release and how to protect domestic rabbits visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/biosecurity
RHDV1 K5 is a variant of the existing virus which is already widespread in Australia. It only infects the European rabbit and is not detrimental to humans, other domestic animals or native species.