Updated virus to target wild rabbit population

Pest control: Early results from trials shows the calicivirus RHDV1 K5 has had up to a 50 per cent reduction in wild rabbit populations across South Australia.
Pest control: Early results from trials shows the calicivirus RHDV1 K5 has had up to a 50 per cent reduction in wild rabbit populations across South Australia.

The release of calicivirus RHDV1 K5 has produced some significant results, with early data showing a 50 per cent reduction in wild rabbit populations on targeted South Australian sites.

The Korean strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, which was released at around 300 sites across the country in March 2017, is part of a 20-year national rabbit biocontrol pipeline strategy.

Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) reports the K5 release is just one avenue which could help landholders achieve better results in the management of pest rabbits.

Follow-up controls that should be used to help with maximum results include warren ripping, warren fumigation, poison baiting and monitoring.

State Minister for Primary Industries Tim Whetstone said releasing the current virus in September would help farmers and potential save flora and fauna.

"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," Mr Whetstone said.

"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.

"The state rabbit control coordinator, 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."

The K5 virus is a variant on the existing calicivirus and is not harmful to humans, other domestic animals and native species.

Mr Whetstone said people who have pet rabbits or raise rabbits used for domestic purposes can have their animals vaccinated against the virus.

"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," Mr Whetstone said.

"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 more information on the calicivirus RHDV1 K5, wild rabbit control or rabbit vaccinations visit https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds_and_pest_animals/animal_pests_in_south_australia/established_pest_animals/wild_rabbits

This story Updated virus to target wild rabbits first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.