Rabbits Vs RHDV1 K5 Virus – Round two

The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group is coordinating a second release of the RHDV1 K5 Virus in the Peel region. The group will also be hosting a Rabbit Control Workshop to educate landowners on follow up management options, such as warren destruction and baiting, that can extend the effectiveness of the virus release.

Since the first recorded release of rabbits in 1859 wild rabbits have colonised most of Australia and occur in high numbers in many areas.

 

two rabbits by fence

Since the first recorded release of rabbits in 1859 wild rabbits have colonised most of Australia and occur in high numbers in many areas. Even if the density of rabbits is low, it can be enough to stop the regeneration of native vegetation. This is a key threatening process for some native plant species. Rabbits often out graze native animals and are attributed to the extinction of several small ground dwelling mammals.  Wild rabbits also cost the Australian Agricultural industry over 200 million a year in lost productivity.

The Centre for Invasive Species has outlined the rabbit problem for Australia in this short video which can be found on the Pest Smart website.

 

 

Early this year phase one of a 20 year rabbit biocontrol strategy was implemented with the release of the RHDV1 K5 strain of the rabbit calicivirus. It is important to note that RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus; it is a Korean variant of the existing (Czech) virus already widespread in Australia.

The virus was released by accredited personnel across 550 sites in Australia. Initial monitoring has suggested an average decline of 42% with anecdotal reports suggesting higher mortality in some areas.

A second coordinated release of RHDV1 K5 is planned in the southwest of Western Australia towards the end of 2017. Timing is critical with flies being a main vector for the spread of the virus. It is also helpful if green feed is depleted at the time of the release – under these conditions rabbits are more likely to take the oats or carrots that have been inoculated with the virus.

With this timeframe in mind, it is important that rabbit owners speak to their local vet to determine the best timing for vaccination, and what additional safeguards can be put in place. No precautions or interventions are required for native animals or livestock, and it poses no risk to human health.

A biocontrol option is not the silver bullet and follow-up is necessary to maintain the control results over a longer period of time. Follow-up actions include fumigation and/or destruction of warrens, and follow up baiting. Studies have shown that these techniques not only remove rabbits entirely from an area but can also avoid re-population for up to 5 years.

wild rabbit workshop image

 

  The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group is dedicated to educating landholders on the management of declared pests such as rabbits. The group will be hosting a rabbit control workshop on Thursday December 7th , 2017 .

The workshop will showcase on-ground control techniques. Landowners can talk to experience contractors on different services available. They will also have the opportunity to network with other landholders to foster a community wide approach to rabbit control.

To express your interest in becoming a release site for the rabbit calicivirus, or to register for the rabbit control workshop, please email comms.phbg@gmail.com   

 

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