Posted on 06/03/2017 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Biological control of rabbits commences on Phillip Island

The introduced European rabbit is recognised as Australia’s most destructive pest, threatening biodiversity and revegetation, and estimated to cost up to $200 million annually. A new strain of Calicivirus (RHDV1 K5) has been developed as a new biological control agent to help in the fight against rabbits.

Phillip Island has been selected as one of around 600 sites across Australia where a coordinated release of this new strain of RHD will occur. Phillip Island Nature Parks, with support from Bass Coast Shire Council and Bass Coast Landcare Network, will be facilitating the release and conducting monitoring on Phillip Island in early March.

Phillip Island’s cool climate is expected to provide optimum conditions for this new strain of RHD to work most effectively. A benign form of the virus currently exists on the island which provides immunity to the strain released in 1996, an obstacle which will hopefully be overcome by the new RHDV1 K5 strain.

Carrots inoculated with the virus will be laid at several sites on Phillip Island to introduce it to the rabbit population and once infected, insects such as flies will spread it to rabbits in other areas of Phillip Island and the adjacent mainland.

RHDV1 K5 is specific to rabbits and will not affect any other animals or humans. Pet rabbits can be immunised against RHD at local Vets.

When used with other conventional control methods such as baiting in rural areas and warren destruction it is hoped the release of this new strain of Calicivirus will provide another tool in the rabbit control toolbox to reduce the rabbit population.

For further information on the release of the new strain of Calicivirus, contact Stuart Murphy (Phillip Island Nature Parks) on 0419 369 365.