EUROPEAN RABBITS (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are a severe continental-scale threat to Australia’s globally important biodiversity and agriculture. The extreme sensitivity of many native plant species to rabbit damage – as few as one rabbit per hectare can impede natural regeneration – has resulted in 75 nationally threatened plant species and five threatened ecological communities being at risk from rabbit impacts. Rabbits are also Australian agriculture’s most costly vertebrate pest animal causing more than $200 million in production losses each year.
Without rabbit biocontrol agents, however, these impacts would be much worse: the combination of myxoma virus (MV) and rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) still limits rabbit numbers to about 15% of their potential numbers, and without them the cost for agriculture alone would be in excess of $2 billion a year. The cumulative environmental benefits of the release of MV in 1950 and RHDV in 1995 includes landscape scale native vegetation regeneration, increased abundance of native plants and animals, continued persistence of many native threatened species, large scale carbon biosequestration, and improved landscape and ecosystem resilience. The cumulative economic benefits for agriculture alone from MV and RHDV over 60 years are estimated at $70 Billion, or an average of $1.17 billion per year.
To maintain these benefits and keep rabbit abundance below or near the rabbit impact threshold, strategic rabbit biocontrol research is critical to strengthen the effectiveness of existing rabbit biocontrol agents, and identify and evaluate new potential biocontrol agents.
Benefits of Rabbit Biocontrol in Australia [2.3 kb PDF]
PestSmart Toolkit for rabbits: www.pestsmart.org.au/pest-animal-species/european-rabbit/
|Author||Cox TE, Strive T, Mutze G, West P and Saunders G|
|Publisher||Invasive Animals CRC|
|ISBN/ISSN||Web ISBN: 978-1-921777-64-6|
|Control method||Biological Control|
|Region||Australia - national|