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Control of wild rabbits

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Ratification Date: 08 Jul 2011

Policy

Reducing adverse impacts of wild rabbits is a legitimate and necessary objective for those responsible for managing agricultural land, pastoral land, national parks and other land. Methods employed for the control of rabbits must be as humane as possible. The total eradication of rabbits on the Australian continent is not a realistic goal.

Background

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has caused, and continues to cause, very severe damage to agricultural and natural areas in the southern half of Australia. It poses a serious threat to the survival of some native species of plants and animals.

Guidelines

The following guidelines should be observed for the control for wild rabbits.

  • The use of sodium fluoroacetate (1080) and anticoagulants is an acceptable method of poisoning rabbits. Strychnine should not be used in rabbit control.
  • Methods of applying poisoned baits should minimise the risk to non-target species.
  • Ripping of warrens alone is effective but should be used in conjunction with other methods so that rabbit numbers are minimal when ripping is carried out.
  • The AVA rejects the use of explosives alone because the operator has insufficient control to ensure that it is not inhumane. It is a reasonable technique to employ to destroy warrens in rocky ground or inaccessible country after an efficient poisoning program has been carried out.
  • Fumigation may be necessary, but the AVA urges that more effective, humane and less irritant fumigants be developed.
  • The use of steel-jawed traps is inhumane and is not an efficient means of controlling rabbits.
  • Shooting is humane if the bullet passes through the brain, causing instantaneous loss of consciousness. Shooting through the heart may be more practical in some situations. Shooting is generally not an efficient method of controlling rabbits if no other method is used, but it can be useful to reduce the number of rabbits that survive poisoning or warren ripping.
  • Myxomatosis has been an extremely effective agent in rabbit control. Although this disease causes distress to rabbits, it is a necessary part of any comprehensive rabbit control campaign, given the context of the Australian environment.
  • The imported calicivirus causes an acute fatal disease in rabbits and has now been released in the field for rabbit control. The AVA believes that this disease causes less suffering than other current methods of control, including 1080 and myxomatosis.

Other recommendations

The AVA supports ongoing research to find more practical and effective and humane methods of control, particularly research into fertility control (including virus-vectored immunosterilisation and related techniques).

Other relevant policies and position statements

Control of native and introduced animals causing damage to agriculture and habitat

Date of ratification by AVA Board 8 July 2011