The release of the rabbit virus, RHDV1 K5, will begin in March as part of Australia’s 20 year plan to reduce negative impacts on agriculture and the environment through managing rabbit populations.
RHDV1 K5 is a Korean variant of the existing virus already widespread in Australia and scientists have found that it works better in cool wet regions like the Kinglake Ranges where the current virus variant has not been so successful.
Mr John Matthews from Invasive Animals CRC said “The virus is an extremely humane method of controlling rabbits, it’s almost like they go to sleep. They will die very quickly,” He also said “There is no risk to any other animals except the European Rabbit”.
Mr Matthews said “Many of the Victorian release sites were properties owned by members of Landcare networks”.
Expressions of interest from the Strath Creek and Kinglake Landcare Groups were approved and these will be two of around 150 release sites across Victoria. Other sites within the Upper Goulburn region are at Taggerty and Highlands.
The virus is expected to be spread from release sites by insects such as bushflies and blowflies; and can also be spread through direct contact between a rabbit and a rabbit carcass.
It is unlikely that RHDV1 K5 will achieve the population reductions that the 1996 calicivirus release initially did, as it is not being released into a naïve population. Knockdowns are expected to be up to 40%.
It is important that RHDV1 K5 is used as part of an integrated multi-technique rabbit management program and landowners follow up with conventional control tools to achieve sustainable long-term control.
RabbitScan can be used to map rabbit problem areas to help coordinate control and to maximise the long-term benefits of the virus release.
Rabbit owners are advised to vaccinate domestic rabbits and provide additional protection against the virus by keeping rabbits 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/rabbitcalicivirus
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.
Upper Goulburn Landcare Network
Ph. 0413 855 490