LOCALS who come across dead rabbits are being urged to report them via the national RabbitScan portal, as authorities assess the effectiveness of a new strain of calicivirus.
CSIRO scientists working with the NSW Deparment of Primary Industries recently oversaw the national release of a Korean strain of calicivirus, known as RHDV1 K5, at more than 600 locations.
Several locations in Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast were targeted for the release of carrot baits laced with the virus.
Scientists hope the virus, which is fatal to the target species, will spread among the pest rabbit population and help to control their numbers.
The first dead rabbits have been identified near one of the release sites on the outskirts of Canberra.
Andreas Glanznig, chief executive officer of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, said the result confirmed that RHDV1 K5 was starting to work.
“While this is the first confirmed case of RHDV1 K5, we have had other reports of dead rabbits from around Australia logged in to our RabbitScan portal,” Mr Glanznig said.
All release sites received tissue sample kits as part of their mailed-out information packs sent in early February, and tissue samples are now starting to be mailed back to laboratory testing facilities for analysis.
“We are still actively encouraging and reminding those involved in the release and members of the public who come across a dead rabbit to report it into RabbitScan,” he said.
“These reports are vital to our understanding of the movement of the disease around the country and will assist landholders in making future decisions about rabbit management.”
Locals can view live updates of the rabbit disease through the Rabbit Biocontrol Tracker which can be found via the ‘Report Disease’ function of RabbitScan.
Lake Macquarie City Council’s acting waste, environment and rangers manager, Derek Poulton, is reminding owners of pet rabbits to have them vaccinated against the new calicivirus strain.
“To help prevent domestic rabbits from becoming infected pet owners should consult their vet and follow vaccination recommendations,” Mr Poulton said.
“The control of wild rabbits across NSW is essential, as they can cause significant economic losses to agriculture by damaging crops and pasture, and locally contribute to environmental degradation and damage to community land.”
A vaccine (Cylap) is available to protect domestic rabbits against RHDV1 K5 and has a proven 20-year track record in Australia and 30 years in Europe protecting rabbits from all RHDV1 strains.
Zoetis, the manufacture of the vaccine, has confirmed that a new shipment of vaccine has arrived in Australia and orders are currently being filled through the various veterinary vaccine wholesalers.
- To access the RabbitScan portal, visit feralscan.org.au and click on the ‘rabbit’ tab.