Call to contribute to rabbit research

Rabbits are estimated to cost Australian agriculture $200 million annually.
Camera IconRabbits are estimated to cost Australian agriculture $200 million annually. Credit: The West Australian

Landholders are being asked to keep an eye out for dead or diseased rabbits and report them to the Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

Department research officer Susan Campbell said rabbit surveillance by the community and department was part of ongoing biological control research to address numbers of the pest.

"The initial release of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV, calicivirus) in 1995 succeeded in suppressing rabbit numbers to varying extents throughout the landscape, however, in recent times rabbit numbers have again begun to increase," she said.

"Researchers are seeking reports of suspected RHDV or myxoma virus outbreaks to enable us to collect samples from rabbit carcasses and test for the prevalence of rabbit control viruses in WA.

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"By testing for viruses and comparing the strains of viruses in WA to those present in the Eastern States, we will be better able to plan for effective future rabbit control."

Dr Campbell said an outbreak of RHDV would be evidenced by a noticeable drop in rabbit activity and possibly dead rabbits that showed no sign of injury or disease.

During a myxoma virus outbreak, rabbit activity would also decline and affected rabbits would have lesions and abscesses, particularly around the eyes and the ears.

Since their introduction in Australia, European rabbits have had a devastating impact on agricultural production and biodiversity, caused largely through competition and land degradation.

Rabbits are estimated to cost Australian agriculture $200 million annually.

The ongoing rabbit research conducted by DAFWA is part of the Australian Pest Animal Research Program, supported by the Australian government.

Landholders who suspect an outbreak of either RHDV or myxoma virus are asked to immediately contact their local department office, or phone Dr Campbell on 9366 2301.

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