Protecting pet rabbits

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has issued a new biosecurity bulletin for rabbit owners, as DPI and Local Land Services urge pet owners to protect their rabbits in time for the national release of the rabbit biocontrol, RHDV1 K5, at the end of this month.

DPI invasive species manager, Quentin Hart, said RHDV1 K5 is the Korean strain of a naturally-occurring rabbit virus first released here in 1996 to manage the impact of pest rabbits on the Australian environment and agriculture.

“We are targeting wild rabbits which cost more than $200 million in lost agricultural production annually and wreak havoc on the environment, with a direct impact on 304 threatened native plant and animal species,” Mr Hart said.

“To help prevent domestic rabbits from becoming infected with RHDV1 K5 pet owners should consult their veterinarian and follow vaccination recommendations.”

In addition to vaccination, DPI advises rabbit owners to:

• Prevent direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild rabbits

• Protect rabbits from insects to reduce risks of RHDV and myxomatosis, which includes insect-proof hutches and keeping rabbits indoors

• Wash their hands with warm soapy water between handling rabbits

These recommendations on the DPI website are in accordance with advice from the Australian Veterinary Association www.ava.com.au/rabbit-calicivirus

Landholders, working with DPI and Local Land Services, plan to release RHDV1 K5 in more than 200 community-led sites in NSW, from late February until early March, as part of the national release.

National release of RHDV1 K5 has been delivered through the Invasive Animals CRC, with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and NSW governments, CSIRO, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia.

More information is available online, www.healthierlandscapes.org.au