Over 400 sites selected for rabbit virus release
16 December 2016
The release of a new strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, known as RHDV1 K5 or 'K5' is being planned for next year at 418 sites across Australia in an effort to control rabbits and their negative impacts on agricultural production and native ecosystems.
A total of 755 expressions of interest were received from community groups across Australia wanting to take part in the national roll out of the new virus. Of these, 355 originated from Victoria, resulting in 150 sites being selected for release in early 2017.
The Victorian release of K5 is the culmination of work undertaken by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) in partnership with Agriculture Victoria.
The overwhelming community response to host a release site in Victoria has enabled the strategic selection of locations to ensure widespread distribution of the virus right across the state.
Sites were specifically selected based on national criteria, adapted for Victorian conditions.
Agriculture Victoria's rabbit specialist John Matthews said K5 is not a new virus, but rather a new strain of the existing virus already established and widespread in Australia and has exciting potential for Victoria
"For some, K5 will be seen as a once in a generation opportunity to improve biological control options for rabbits in Australia," Mr Matthews said.
Mr Matthews said K5 was selected because it may overcome the protective effects of a benign calicivirus which naturally occurs within Australia's rabbit population and that it is species-specific to European rabbits.
"K5 has the potential to kill more rabbits and provide for a faster death than the current strain of RHDV.
"Agriculture Victoria has commenced biological sampling at 13 long-term rabbit population monitoring sites across Victoria in the lead up to the release of K5, in order to be able to accurately monitor the spread and impact of K5 once it is released," he said.
"A key message for land owners is that K5 isn't a silver bullet and is not expected to result in population reductions like those seen in 1996-97 when calicivirus first arrived in Victoria.
"Knockdowns are expected to be improved by anywhere from 10 to 40 per cent, depending on location and susceptibility of the rabbit population to K5, however some vulnerable rabbit populations may be affected at higher rates," he said.
"The combination of an improved biological control agent in K5, community-led rabbit management and using best practice rabbit management principles, should provide an opportunity to manage and maintain rabbit numbers at low levels."
Categorised under: Agriculture