Purchasing RHDV1 K5 to control wild rabbits

Background

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) has been used in Australia for more than 20 years to minimise the impacts of introduced European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on farming and the environment. In most susceptible adult rabbits the disease progresses rapidly from fever and lethargy to death within 48–72 hours of infection. RHDV has a high mortality rate resulting in the death of 70–90 per cent of susceptible rabbits.

The RHDV1 Czech v351 strain has been available to authorised users as a biological control agent since 1996. A strain introduced in 2017, known as RHDV1 K5, is now available for purchase.

Before using RHDV – Check that the rabbit population is susceptible

Estimating the prevalence of immune wild rabbits prior to release of biocontrol strains is recommended. This is best achieved by collecting cardiac blood from 8–10 freshly shot wild rabbits in the area where the virus is proposed to be released. Blood is usually collected using a syringe and needle into a Vacutainer® tube. The blood should be sent to the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) with an accompanying specimen advice form. A high sero-prevalence in the rabbits is an indication that release of the virus is not likely to be successful in reducing numbers.

Who can purchase and use RHDV?

Legislation surrounding the use of RHDV varies across the Australian states and territories.

Australian Capital Territory

Authorised ACT government officers who have completed appropriate training as determined by the ACT Environment Protection Authority. More information: ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Vertebrate Pests Manager (02) 6207 2135.

New South Wales

People who have undergone appropriate training and are approved authorised control officers (ACOs) by NSW Department of Primary Industries. Landholders should contact Local Land Services: http://www.lls.nsw.gov.au

Northern Territory

An authorised person appointed by the NT Chemical Coordinator under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act. For more information, landholders should contact John Tyne, Wildlife Ranger Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Department of Tourism and Culture, (08) 8951 8283 or john.tyne@nt.gov.au

Queensland

Authorised officers of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, local government, and the Darling Downs and Moreton Rabbit Board. For more information, landholders should contact their local council or DAF Biosecurity: 13 25 23.

South Australia

RHDV may be used and supplied to any person within South Australia.

Landholders can contact EMAI directly: virology.enquiries@dpi.nsw.gov.au or (02) 4640 6337 to purchase RHDV1 K5.

Tasmania

Officers of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, and persons who hold an Agricultural Spraying Permit issued under the Tasmanian Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1995.

Landholders should contact the Invasive Species Branch: (03) 6777 2200 or invasivespecies@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

Victoria

Authorised users, including those holding a Commercial Operators Licence with vermin destroyers’ endorsement or Pest Control Licences authorising the use of pesticides formulated for the control of pest animals. Authorised users for aerial application are those holding a Pilot (Chemical Rating) Licence. In other situations, the use of RHDV is not restricted, meaning it may be used and supplied to any person within Victoria.

Landholders can contact EMAI directly: virology.enquiries@dpi.nsw.gov.au or (02) 4640 6337 to purchase RHDV1 K5.

Western Australia

Pest Management Technicians with an appropriately endorsed licence, officers of the Department of Agriculture and Food, officers of Department of Parks and Wildlife and others who have completed appropriate training offered by the Department of Agriculture and Food. Before using RHDV1 K5 in WA, a short training course needs to be undertaken via DAFWA’s Client Online Training website. This course is compulsory for those seeking to become authorised users of RHDV1 K5, a restricted chemical product containing rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus.

How to order RHDV

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, RHDV1 K5, is available in freeze-dried form from NSW Department of Primary Industries Virology Laboratory. The RHDV1 Czech v351 strain is also available. To order either of these products, please contact EMAI: virology.enquiries@dpi.nsw.gov.au or (02) 4640 6337.

Application of RHDV

RHDV should only be used according to the instructions supplied with the product. Do not release RHDV into areas where young rabbits are present as they are much less likely to die because of RHDV but the exposure to the virus at this age can provide lifelong immunity. Pre-feeding of non-treated bait is an essential step to allow rabbits to become accustomed to eating bait material, such as carrots and oats. Rabbits should be fed carrots or oats on at least two to three days prior to the release of RHDV.

Additional Information

Information about RHDV1 K5 and general rabbit management is available from the PestSmart website, including:

Please note that warren destruction by ripping or other means should be considered as part of effective rabbit control in the months following the introduction of RHDV. Destruction of existing warrens has been shown to reduce the chance of rabbits reinvading a site after the population has been reduced.

More information about the different RHDV strains is available from the Australian Veterinary Assocation: http://www.ava.com.au/rabbit-calicivirus