Authorities remain hopeful calicivirus will cut down pest rabbit populations
ACT parks authorities remain hopeful the release of calicivirus RHDV-K5 will work to reduce rabbit populations in Canberra.
Daniel Iglesias, director of Parks and Conservation, said there had been numerous reports of surging rabbit numbers in some urban areas despite the new control measures.
K5 was released in ACT parks almost a year ago, but Mr Iglesias said it would be most effective during the cool autumn and winter months and with higher rainfall.
The Korean strain of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease was rolled out at about 600 sites across the country.
The release was given the go-ahead by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) following a decade-long investigation by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
“Rabbits are the bane of the land manager’s life,” Mr Iglesias said.
“They are very difficult to control, particularly in places like Canberra where there’s plenty of bush around and rabbit habitat.”
Mr Iglesias said rabbits were among the most adaptive and resilient animals in the country.
“Since [rabbits]were introduced at a property near Geelong back in the 1800s, [they’ve] spread all over the southern parts of the country.
“They have been blamed for competing with native animals, small mammals and blamed for providing food for other pests which in turn have created devastating impacts on native animals.”
Last year Parks and Conservation chose two release sites for K5 — in Namadgi National Park and at Mulligans Flat in Canberra’s north.
“The land values are greatest out there and we want to make sure we protect it from rabbits,” Mr Iglesias said.
“We need to keep up the fight and every year we invest over $150,000 all over the Territory to control rabbits, and a lot more to control foxes.
“In the case of calicivirus and our other controls, [the CSIRO]have done exhaustive tests to ensure that other native animals and stock animals won’t be impacted.
“We’re also sure to pick up carcases, because one thing that can happen is native eagles might eat the poisoned animal.”
Mr Iglesias said working to manage the wild rabbit population would remain a priority.
“What we find is that when we control rabbits, there’s less food for foxes which means there are less foxes around.
“The rabbit and the fox together really are the criminals of the animal world when it comes to the survivability of plants and animals in this country.
“But we need to understand that this animal is with us and will be with us for as long as we’re around.”