Rabbit biological control active on Eyre Peninsula

News article |

Sensitive environmental areas, native wildlife and farmland is set to benefit following the successful release of the biological control RHDV1-K5 for invasive European rabbits on Eyre Peninsula.

Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula Biosecurity Officer Ben Tucker said he is cautiously optimistic of early results and thankful for the early feedback from farmers to gauge European rabbit densities across the peninsula.

“Particularly now as we come into summer maintaining soil cover that rabbits remove is so important to sustainable agriculture and natural ecosystems. A strong downward trend in rabbit numbers is detectable in our pre and post release spotlighting survey results. To date, we have had one positive lab result for the K5 strain and another for a different RHDV2 strain from the dozen biological samples tested. These results are consistent with national results released by the Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), which also showed an impressive 42 per cent average reduction in European rabbit numbers at release sites Australia wide,” Mr Tucker said.

“It’s been great to work with land managers, community groups, local councils and PIRSA to achieve this Eyre Peninsula part of the nationally co-ordinated release of RHDV1-K5, the first new biocontrol to be released in Australia in over 20 years,” Mr Tucker said.

Local farmer Gary Carr was one of the land managers involved with the release.

“Rabbits are always a bit of a problem in our district, I’m very supportive of this new release, or anything that Natural Resources EP are proactively doing to help reduce the impact of rabbits. So far we have seen a reduction in rabbit numbers post release, but I’m hoping the virus will really fire up and rabbit numbers will crash further,” Mr Carr said.

In March 2017, the RHDV1-K5 biological control was introduced to twelve sites across Eyre Peninsula including Polda - Mount Wedge area, Port Neill, Coffin Bay and Lincoln National Park, contributing to over 550 sites Australia wide. Natural Resources EP staff contributed over 100 hours of pre and post release spotlighting surveys transects and 76 hours of release activities, along with follow-up collection of biological samples and engagement with local land managers and community in service to the ‘RHD Boost’ national program.

To help learn more about the impact of all strains of RHDV in Australia, PIRSA are asking landholders if they are aware of any outbreaks of RHDV in their area, see dead rabbits around or near rabbit warrens to record these in RabbitScan (www.feralscan.org.au/rabbitscan) and to submit a sample for testing.

For more information or to organise testing on dead rabbits, visit RabbitScan to request a sample kit by post, or contact your nearest NRM Office, or call (08) 8688 3111 or visit www.landscape.sa.gov.au/ep/plants-and-animals/pest-plants-and-animals/pest-animals

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