A new virus known as RHDV1 K5 will be trialled next year at four sites across the north-west in an effort to significantly reduce rabbit populations and their devastating impact on agricultural production and native ecosystems.
Government Senator Ian Macdonald has welcomed the support from local residents who helped to identify potential trial sites in Dimbulah, Maalan, Ravenshoe and Atherton for next year’s release of the virus that scientists and landowners hope will significantly reduce rabbit populations.
“Australia has a good track record when it comes to the biological control of rabbits. When we first released rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus in 1995, populations had multiplied to around 600 million, and we managed to reduce this by 98 per cent in arid areas,” Senator Macdonald said.
“This built on the massive reductions achieved in the 1950s from the release of the myxoma virus, which killed more than 85 per cent of Australia’s rabbit population.
“Rabbit populations are on the rise again, however, and a coordinated effort is needed from all levels of government working with researchers, industry and local communities to address this pest problem.”
Senator Macdonald said the release of RHDV1 K5 is part of the Australian Government’s $1.2million commitment to assist in the research and development of new rabbit controls.
Areas with high rabbit density were a priority in the site selection process, which aims to achieve maximum coverage and provide the best outcomes through a broader spread of the virus.
“While it’s unfortunate we have such a large rabbit problem, I welcome news that sites in Kennedy have been selected as part of the national program to protect local industry from these types of pests.
“RHDV1 K5 won’t kill every pest rabbit, but it is the best option to address population resistance to existing RHDV strains and tackle this pest problem on a national scale.”
Locals are being asked to remain vigilant and report pest sightings to authorities and by recording and mapping rabbit activity in their area using the RabbitScan mobile app, which will be used to monitor the effectiveness of control measures.
Information entered in the app will provide essential data to land managers undertaking follow up controls once the RHDV1 K5 virus has been released.
RabbitScan can be downloaded from www.rabbitscan.org.au
For more details about the RHD-Boost project, visit the Invasive Animals CRC website www.invasiveanimals.com.