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Beyond the Bale : June 2019
rabbit abundance being about 15% of the potential population size in Australia. “Both AWI and MLA are therefore proud to involve ourselves in national collaborations to ensure we are getting strategic vertebrate pest management tools into the hands of farmers, producers and land managers quicker, ensuring value for money and effort. “We continue to invest, with MLA, in the Centre’s rabbit biocontrol program and look forward to it further develop and progress.” COORDINATED RABBIT CONTROL VITAL Analysis shows that RHDV1 K5 appears to work as a biocide, meaning its impact is greatest at a local scale and it generally does not spread beyond the release site like a self- disseminating biocontrol agent does. AWI Program Manager Vertebrate Pests, Ian Evans, says rabbit biocontrol is most beneficial if applied as part of an integrated and complementary pest management approach. “RHDV1 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,” Ian said. “A coordinated community-led response is needed. RHDV1 K5 offers a new opportunity to begin a conversation with neighbours with the aim of integrated best practice rabbit control at a landscape scale. “After a rabbit population knockdown, warren destruction by ripping or other means should be considered, followed by mopping up activities such as shooting and trapping.” A separate RHD virus called RHDV2 is also circulating within the Australian landscape, after being first reported as a biosecurity outbreak in wild rabbits in May 2015. This virus has spread throughout most of Australia and is currently the dominant circulating RHDV strain at a national scale. Having the National Rabbit Biocontrol Monitoring program in place as part of the RHDV1 K5 release enabled researchers to quantify the effect RHDV2 has had on wild rabbit populations. The impact of RHDV2 is estimated to have significantly reduced mean rabbit abundances by 60% in NSW and SA, 66% in WA, with an equivocal 52% reduction in Victoria. AWI encourages all landholders to continue to monitor their rabbit populations and report rabbit sightings and deaths through RabbitScan – www.rabbitscan.org.au MORE INFORMATION Refer to www.wool.com/rabbits for more information about RHDV1 K5 and to access videos and information about conventional control including poison baiting, warren fumigation and warren ripping. In regions where a collaborative and community-driven approach has been taken with wild dog control, there has been some great wins in the past decade. But producers, landholders and public land managers need to remain committed. AWI provides funding under its 'Community Wild Dog Control Initiative' to wild dog control groups to undertake control activities. In many parts of the country, AWI funding has been primarily for the purchase of tools (eg canid pest ejectors) and facilities to prepare and store baits on-farm (eg drying racks, freezers, coolrooms). However, there are regions, especially in Victoria, where the funding has been largely used to directly purchase baits. Funding to individual groups is only available for a maximum of three years and emphasis is placed on assisting groups to become self-sufficient in the longer term. AWI funding will soon be exhausted for many current groups, and AWI’s wild dog coordinators are working with these groups to help them transition away from AWI funding and maintain stable and effective programs to support farming enterprises. However, the development of self- sustaining groups has seen mixed results, especially in communities that have relied on AWI funding to purchase baits – in some cases with groups ceasing or drastically reducing baiting once AWI- funding ends. Wild dog control has come a long way in recent years. But in areas where wild dogs have been brought under control, it’s vital that farmers and local communities do not become complacent, otherwise the wild dogs will return. The establishment of effective wild dog control programs has seen sheep – and calm – return to many areas of Victoria (pictured here near Glenaladale in south-east Victoria), but producers are being warned to continue with wild dog baiting as a precaution against the menace returning. KEEP BAITING, IT’S CHEAP INSURANCE! Talgarno farmer and National Wild Dog Management Advisory Group member Peter Star says the Victorian wild dog control programs have been strong but no one can afford to become complacent. “Effective wild dog management practices have been introduced to communities and it’s vital that baiting continues, otherwise communities run the risk of wild dogs returning,” Peter said. “AWI has assisted landholders to get wild dog control programs up and running, and they have been well supported within the community, but AWI doesn’t have a bottomless bucket of funds for baits. “AWI funding was a godsend in Victoria and helped wild dog-affected sheep producers over a crisis. While it might be tempting for producers to stop baiting because the sheep losses have stopped, the situation can quickly turn sour. By the time producers see the losses again, the wild dogs are likely to have bred up and then we have to start all over again. “We’ll return to crisis if producers don’t keep baiting as a precaution; let alone the benefits from killing foxes when producers bait for wild dogs. “Baits are not a high cost for producers. It would cost each of them under $200 per year to buy some baits, which compared to the price of a single prime lamb, or compared to the rise in wool production, is very cost-effective. Baiting is cheap insurance.” MORE INFORMATION www.wool.com/wilddogs ON FARM 47 WILD DOGS CONTINUE TO BAIT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE