Waging war on a feral pest

PLAN OF ATTACK: Rabbit expert Dave Berman discusses the partnership between the LRVC, the Rabbit Board and landholders with Mayor Tanya Milligan.
PLAN OF ATTACK: Rabbit expert Dave Berman discusses the partnership between the LRVC, the Rabbit Board and landholders with Mayor Tanya Milligan. Francis Witsenhuysen

RABBITS remain the most destructive feral pest in Australia, but Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board has confirmed a dramatic decline in populations after deadly viruses were released in the region earlier this year.

In late February the rabbit board, the Lockyer Valley Regional Council and landholders united to uphold their responsibility

to make sure rabbits

were kept out of the region after they surveyed about 1800 properties within a three kilometre radius of known rabbit breeding areas.

The joint program has led to nearly 100 rabbit breeding sites being destroyed in the Lockyer Valley Regional Council area.

The Darling Downs- Moreton Rabbit Board's Tom Upton confirmed a 77% reduction in observed rabbit population from new viruses released at the Lockyer Valley site.

"Rabbit sightings were also reduced from 50 per kilometre prior to the viruses to 10 per kilometre after the viruses were present,” Mr Upton said.

"The relative impact of each virus has not been determined at this time.”

Mr Upton said the board's efforts in eradicating rabbits had been boosted by the arrival and release of two new strains of the rabbit calicivirus at the end of 2016 and in March this year.

The rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 2 is an unplanned strain of the virus that was found in rabbits in the ACT in 2015 and has since spread across the eastern states.

The rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus k5 is a planned release of a new strain of the rabbit calicivirus that was released across Australia from March 2017.

"The new viruses have impacted positively on rabbit populations although the level of success is still being ascertained,” Mr Upton said.

Property owners are responsible for the control and eradication of rabbits on their properties and the board provides advice and some assistance, depending on the size of populations and resources available.

It is illegal to keep rabbits in Queensland, either as pets or for a commercial purpose.

Topics:  darling downs and moreton rabbit board lockyer valley lvrc rabbits virus

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