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Beyond the Bale : December 2015
ON FARM 35 The benefits to agriculture have been estimated to be worth $6 billion to the nation to date, or an average $350 million a year. “It was a fantastic example of the real-world benefits that strong R&D investment delivers, however the virus has, over time, led to have a patchy distribution. “A new strain of calicivirus has been identified, and now subject to appropriate approvals, we will be ready to release it nationally to assist farmers, the environment and rural communities. “I commend all of our partners in this project including Australian Wool Innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia, state and territory governments, particularly New South Wales who is the lead project proponent and major investor, University of Canberra, University of Adelaide, CSIRO and Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia.” RHDV K5 is not a newly developed virus; it is a Korean variant of the existing virus already widespread in Australia. It is a naturally occurring variant of RHDV – the virus has not been altered by humans in any way. RHDV is predominately spread by insects, such as bushflies and blowflies. Direct contact between a rabbit and a rabbit carcass with RHDV is also an avenue of spread. Animals that predate on rabbit carcasses such as foxes, dogs and cats may also excrete the virus in their faeces. No variant of RHDV1 has ever been found to cause infection in any other animal except the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Scientific evidence has also shown that even predatory animals which eat rabbits (infected or dead from RHDV1) will not develop an infection. RHDV K5 is not a silver bullet and we need private and public land managers to be vigilant in not taking their foot off the pedal when it comes to their regular rabbit control. Rabbit biocontrol is beneficial when applied as part of an integrated and complementary pest management approach. AWI On-farm Program Manager Ian Evans said the RHDV K5 release will boost existing biological control agents that are already out in the environment. “This is a national initiative to better control rabbits, particularly in areas where the current strain of RHDV has not had as much success, like the cool-wet regions of Australia,” Ian said. “Population reductions are anticipated to be improved by anywhere from 0-40% depending on location and susceptibility of the rabbit population to RHDV K5, but knockdowns like those seen with the release of calicivirus in 1996/97 are not expected. “If we are to make any serious dent in the population, a coordinated community-led response will be needed; RHDV K5 offers a new opportunity to begin a conversation with neighbours with the aim of integrated best practice rabbit control at a landscape scale.” As well as helping to lessen the impacts of rabbits on production and biodiversity, RHDV K5 provides improved animal welfare due to a faster death than the current variant of RHDV. Basically the rabbits end up with ‘cold- like’ symptoms, become lethargic and then die quickly. MORE INFORMATION www.pestsmart.org.au/?p=62706 HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN THE RHDV K5 RELEASE Farmers, landholders, community groups, councils and everyone across the country are invited to express their interest in participating in the final stages of the research to support the release of RHDV K5. “You can take part by nominating to be a monitoring and/or release site,” CEO of the Invasive Animals CRC Andreas Glanznig says. “You can also get involved by downloading the free RabbitScan App to your phone and map rabbit sightings, helping us better understand where rabbits are. “The more people who are involved across Australia, the more our ability to monitor rabbits and deliver effective pest management across the country will improve – we need your help. “Rabbits don’t stop at fence lines and we need landholders, Landcare groups and councils alike to take a coordinated community-led approach to assist in monitoring the effectiveness of our management methods. “An integrated approach is crucial – RHDV K5 is not a silver bullet. The data collected by the community will be used to provide advice for land managers and farmers on the effectiveness of their management programs and best practice approaches for future management methods.” Indicating they would like to participate in the project, the Surf Coast Shire Council in Victoria – which includes wool-growing areas around Winchelsea – has already received responses from more than 30 landholders who have expressed an interest as rabbit monitoring sites. One of these landholders and shire councillors Heather Wellington said she hears on a daily basis from her constituency the need to improve rabbit management strategies due to the damage they are causing, not only to the environment but also to agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods. “Rabbit management in our shire has always been a challenge and we welcome research into any new tools in development. “We also feel it is our responsibility as a council to facilitate community-led action and we have already had a lot of interest from Landcare groups and landholders in our area to do this.” MORE INFORMATION: To get involved, visit www.pestsmart.org. au/get-involved-as-a-monitoring-site. The RabbitScan App can be downloaded from www.feralscan.org.au/rabbitscan FREE RESOURCES on PestSmart Connect website www.pestsmart.org.au The new PestSmart Connect website from the Invasive Animals CRC provides a toolkit of free materials – including guides, videos, case studies and links to assistance – to help woolgrowers and land managers combat a range of pest animals including rabbits, wild dogs, foxes and feral pigs. AWI co-funded rabbit control guides on the website include: Rabbits: a threat to conservation and natural resource management – this 16-page guide helps farmers to make a quick assessment of whether rabbits are a problem on their property. Glovebox Guide for Managing Rabbits – this 24-page guide provides information on best practice rabbit management for farmers and other land managers.
In the Shops - March 2016