Wild Dog & Pest Control

New national rabbit biocontrol ‘arms race’ strategy released

Sheep Central, May 15, 2024

A NATIONAL strategy to fight rabbits with a pipeline of existing and new biocontrol agents has been released.

The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions has released the Rabbit Biocontrol Pipeline Strategy to spearhead research and development efforts to reduce rabbit numbers, and delivering economic, environmental and social benefits across Australia.

The strategy outlines 10 recommendations to improve the use of existing biocontrol agents and develop new biocontrol tools.

The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions said the solutions will enable a national and collaborative approach to rabbit biocontrol research and innovation, seeking to maintain low levels of rabbit populations and limit their impacts, protecting the gains made by previous successful biocontrol initiatives. The strategy has been endorsed by all Australian governments at State and Federal levels.

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions chief executive Andreas Glanznig said given that rabbits and viral biocontrol agents are in an ‘arms race’, a pipeline of biocontrol agents needed to be developed and ideally released every 10 to 15 years, to keep rabbit impacts in check.

“Without this strategic national R&D approach to deliver new biocontrol agents, Australia runs the risk of being exposed to growing rabbit impacts, which already cost Australian agriculture over $200m a year and impacts 322 nationally listed threatened species.”

CSIRO senior principal research scientist and lead contributor Dr Tanja Strive said the good news is that biocontrol measures such as those outlined in the strategy can facilitate the recovery of native species and ecological communities that have been heavily impacted by rabbits.

“Biological control of rabbits has been effectively used in Australia since the initial release of the myxoma virus in the 1950s, with the cumulative benefit of such methods to Australia’s livestock and farming industries well over $70 billion,” Dr Strive said.

Highlights of the previous rabbit biocontrol pipeline strategy include R&D that delivered Australia’s first rabbit biocontrol agent in 20 years – RHDV1 K5 – released nationally in 2017 through the Centre.

The positive economic and ecological benefits of rabbit biocontrol in Australia underpins the value of ongoing investment in rabbit biocontrol pipelines, the centre said. You can access the Strategy here.

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