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Beyond the Bale : March 2017
images of rabbits affected by virus and disease for easy identification,” Dr Cox said. If rabbit details are recorded on the app while out of phone reception, the details are stored until the phone is in range when the user can upload records directly to the map with just one button. “A powerful aspect of the new tracker gives people the opportunity to submit tissue samples from dead rabbits with suspected RHD virus. When users click to submit a tissue sample our research team sends a free, postage- paid sampling kit with full instructions on how to collect and send the sample. “Once the tissue sample is analysed an update on the digital map will record the results, and the person who submitted the sample will be notified with accurate information of what virus is affecting rabbits in their area or control site, which is valuable information for their local rabbit management plan.” INTEGRATED CONTROL METHODS While biological control of rabbits is very effective at reducing rabbit numbers, biological control alone is not enough. It is important to apply and integrate a number of control methods. In most situations, no single method will provide adequate control of rabbits in the long term. 1. POPULATION KNOCKDOWN The first step is to reduce the rabbit population from medium–high densities down to a manageable level. This is usually done by biological control (via natural outbreak or deliberate release) and/ or chemical control (eg a poison baiting program) during the non-breeding season. If RHD or myxomatosis are already present, then poison baiting should be delayed to allow the disease to reduce rabbit numbers. If rabbit density is low then extensive control can be started straight away. 2. EXTENSIVE CONTROL The next part of the control program should destroy all source areas (where rabbits are living) and reduce rabbits to very low numbers. Control activities include warren ripping and destruction/removal of harbours which provide rabbits with shelter, such as fallen logs, building debris or dense vegetation. Where the use of heavy machinery is not an option for warren ripping, alternative techniques such as explosives and fumigation may be used. The people involved in the release of RHDV1 K5 at the 700 sites were all sent an information guide and a series of 10 short rabbit control videos (see right) fully funded by AWI, to help ensure an effective rollout. The aim was to also provide information on conventional control: poison baiting, and warren fumigation and ripping. Extensive control ensures that the rabbit population cannot recover quickly but it must be done thoroughly to ensure success. If any warrens or harbour are not destroyed, rabbit numbers will simply build up again. Sometimes rabbits can also dig back in and ‘re-open’ warrens if ripping is not done thoroughly (deep or wide enough) and the collapse of the warren structure is inadequate. 3. MOP-UP ACTIVITIES There are usually small numbers of rabbits that survive extensive control, so advanced control is necessary for long- term management. This is where follow-up techniques such as fumigation, shooting and trapping are used in rabbit-active areas. RABBITSCAN The popular RabbitScan app, developed through the Invasive Animals CRC, provides the ability to track the spread of rabbit biocontrol agents and viruses from a smart phone or computer, via a digital map. RabbitScan is available free at www.rabbitscan.org.au. NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) researcher and project leader of RHD Boost, Dr Tarnya Cox, said farmers, land managers and the community can play an important role in recording evidence of rabbit disease which can be used to guide local rabbit management activities. “The app takes you through a few simple steps to record details of dead rabbits and includes PREPARING FOR THE RELEASE OF RHDV1 K5 • An introduction to the rabbit problem in Australia • How to spotlight count for rabbits on your site • How to lay RHDV1 K5 on your site • How to collect samples from a dead rabbit for disease testing • How to collect samples from a shot rabbit for disease testing. CONVENTIONAL CONTROL • Poison baiting for rabbit control • Rabbit warren fumigation • Rabbit warren ripping and harbour destruction. RABBITSCAN • How to use RabbitScan to improve your rabbit control outcomes • How to submit rabbit disease data into RabbitScan. PESTSMART NEW RABBIT CONTROL VIDEO SERIES MORE INFORMATION The videos and information guide are available at www.wool.com/rabbits RabbitScan can be used within your local area to map rabbit problem areas, and to help coordinate control after RHDV1 K5 to maximise the long-term benefits of the virus release. A clip from the ‘Rabbit warren ripping and harbour destruction’ video. ON FARM 29
In the Shops - March 2017