Following is an announcement from the Department of Agriculture and Food
- National release of a new strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, called RHDV1 K5, commenced in the first week of March at more than 600 sites across the country.
- In Western Australia there have been 135 release sites.
- RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus, but is a naturally occurring Korean variant of RHDV1 already present in Australia.
- It is expected that RHDV1 K5 will work better in the cool-wet regions of Australia, where the existing strain has not been so successful.
- Pest rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural and environmental pest animal, costing upwards of $200 million in lost agricultural production annually.
- RHDV1 K5 is anticipated to slow down the increase in pest rabbit numbers, by reducing rabbit populations by up to ~ 40%.
- The goal is for RHDV1 K5 to ‘boost’ current management.
- The release is the culmination of more than six years of research undertaken by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre RHD ‘Boost’ project.
- This is the first release of a new rabbit biocontrol agent in 20 years.
- To maximise the effectiveness of RHDV1 K5, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) is seeking the support of release site managers, communities and the general public:
- Domestic rabbit owners are advised to seek advice from their local veterinarian and use protective biosecurity measures to help keep their rabbits safe from infection.
- Domestic rabbits with up to date vaccinations for the existing strain are likely to be safe from RHDV1 K5.
- RHDV1 K5 will be most effective if supported by integrated pest management, with conventional control measures being undertaken following release of the virus.
- A series of instructional ‘how-to’ videos on best practice rabbit control has been released by the Invasive Animals CRC.
- Release sites, landholders located close to release sites, and members of the public are urged to get involved by using the RabbitScan (FeralScan) app to report rabbit sightings or signs of disease. This will help track the spread of the virus.
- Land managers are strongly encouraged to carry out concurrent control for predators such as foxes.
- The release is being delivered by the Invasive Animals CRC with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and state governments, and industry and non-government organisations.
- For more information visit DAFWA’s RHDV1 K5 web pages – agric.wa.gov.au/rhdv.
- For a detailed summary of field and experimental data into the efficacy of RHDV – PestSmart website.
- For more on RHDV protection and prevention – Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) website
- The RabbitScan app is available from iTunes or GooglePlay, or can be downloaded from the FeralScan website.
- The video series on best practice rabbit control can be downloaded from the PestSmart website.
- The Invasive Animals CRC issues regular RHD Boost E-updates to report on progress of the release program. To subscribe go to pestsmart.org.au/subscribe.