A new virus known as RHDV1 K5 will be trialled next year at five sites around Alice Springs in an effort to significantly reduce rabbit populations and their devastating impact on agricultural production and native ecosystems.
Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, welcomed the support from local residents who helped to identify potential trial sites for the release.
“Australia has a good track record when it comes to the biological control of rabbits. When we first released the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus in 1995, populations had multiplied to around 600 million, and we managed to reduce this by 98 per cent in arid areas,” Senator Scullion said.
“This built on the massive reductions achieved in the 1950s from the release of the myxoma virus, which killed more than 85 per cent of Australia’s rabbit population.
“Rabbit populations are on the rise again, however, and a coordinated effort is needed from all levels of government working with researchers, industry and local communities to address this pest problem.
“The release of RHDV1 K5 is part of the Coalition Government’s $1.2 million commitment to assist in the research and development of new rabbit controls.”
Areas with high rabbit density were a priority in the site selection process. The trial will aim to achieve maximum coverage to provide the best outcomes through a broad spread of the virus.
Senator Scullion welcomed the announcement that sites in Central Australia had been selected as part of the national programme to protect local industry from these types of pests.
“Rabbits are real problem in our local community and cause an estimated $206 million in lost national production each year,” Senator Scullion said.
“I ask that local residents remain vigilant by reporting pest sightings to authorities and by recording and mapping rabbit activity in their area using the RabbitScan mobile app, which will be used to monitor the effectiveness of control measures.”
Information entered in the app will provide essential data to land managers undertaking follow-up controls once the RHDV1 K5 virus has been released.