Margaret River’s Gloucester Park was one of 135 Western Australian release sites included in the roll out of a new 20-year national biocontrol plan for pest rabbits.
The new K5 strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, called RHDV1 was released last week in the Margaret River region.
Domestic rabbit owners are advised to seek advice from their local vet about vaccinations to help keep their rabbits safe from infection.
Shire Coordinator Environment Services John McKinney said the release of K5 provides no greater risk to pet rabbits than the existing RHDV1 strain which has been present in Australia for 20 years.
“Domestic rabbits with up to date vaccinations for the existing strain are likely to be safe from K5, however we recommend owners speak to their vet if they’d like further advice,” Mr McKinney said.
“In Australia, no variant of RHDV1 has ever been found to cause infection in any other animal except the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
“Even predatory animals that eat rabbits that have died from RHDV1 do not develop an infection,” he said.
Residents located close to release sites, and members of the public are urged to get involved by using the RabbitScan (FeralScan) app to report rabbit sightings or signs of disease to help track the spread of the virus.
The RabbitScan app is available from iTunes or GooglePlay, or can be downloaded from the FeralScan website.
It is expected that K5 will work better in the cool, wet regions of Australia.
Rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural and environmental pest animal, costing upwards of $200 million in lost agricultural production annually.
The new strain is expected to slow down the increase in pest rabbit numbers.
K5 will not however result in a 90% reduction of pest rabbit populations, as was seen 20 years ago. Rather it is expected to ‘boost’ current management.
The release of K5 comes after more than five years of testing through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre RHD Boost project, with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and state governments, and industry and non-government organisations.
For more information visit the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia RHDV web page www.agric.wa.gov.au