A new report says controlling rabbits with viruses has saved Australian agriculture $ 81.8 billion, but the pest still costs the industry around $ 206 million each year.
After they were introduced in the 1850s, the number of rabbits in Australia exploded. In the 1940s, there were 600 million across the country, which was more than 80 for 1 people.
A new report released by the CEO of the Center for Invasive Species Solutions, Andreas Glanznig, shows that controlling the number of rabbits had major benefits for primary producers and endangered species.
“The value of new variants of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus that has been naturalized since 2014 for Australian agriculture is expected to save $ 4 billion over the next 30 years,” he said.
“This builds on the benefits already achieved over a 60-year period of $ 81.8 billion after the release of the myxoma virus in 1950 and the first rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus in 1995.”
The report, Benefits of Rabbit Biocontrol in Australia: An Update, also reveals that removing rabbits is just as good for the environment, allowing natural vegetation to thrive, causing feral cats and foxes to fall, and native mammals to bounce back.
Two rabbits can mean 5060 more a year
Glanznig warned against complacency.
“You only need to look at some of the old black-and-white footage from the 1950s to see how devastating rabbits can be in large numbers,” he said.
“They are absolute eating machines that consume about 15 per cent of their body weight a day and cost Australian agriculture about $ 206 million each year.”
Rabbits can start breeding at four months old and, if the conditions are right, produce about five litters a year, creating a new family of 5060 people.
The economic impact of rabbits on agriculture was $ 2ba a year until a breakthrough was made with the myxoma virus release in 1950, which killed 99.8 percent of infected rabbits.
The Australian rabbit population had increased to around 300 million in 1995, when the first rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV1) was released, killing 98 percent of the rabbits in arid areas.
In 2009, a benign endemic rabbit calicivirus gave rabbits some protection against the deadly RHDV1 infection, reducing its effectiveness.
Five years later, the unplanned arrival of another rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV2) reduced rabbit populations by an average of 60 percent and up to 80 percent in some populations, including some rabbits with immunity to RHDV.
In 2017, the coordinated release of a new RHDV1 strain, RHDV1-K5, averaged 34 percent. rabbits down nationally, but were outcompeted by RHDV2 in landscape scale.
Sir. Glanznig said it was important to be at the forefront of the rabbit’s ability to develop genetic resistance because even small numbers had a really negative impact on the native vegetation and animals.
“We know that Mulga, for example, is affected by rabbits with densities as low as one rabbit per 100 hectares, which is equivalent to one rabbit per 90 rugby league pitches,” he said.
Long-term scientific monitoring showed that the release of rabbit hemorrhagic disease viruses was the most important and cost-effective conversational action for small, endangered mammals in the southern arid zone and a number of taxis and ecosystems in recent decades.
For example, researchers found that the number of small mammals such as the Dusky Hopping-Mouse, Spinifex Hopping Mouse and Plains Mouse in Australia’s arid zone grew 365 percent with the arrival of the first rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus.
“This shows that rabbit biocontrol is fundamental to protecting Australia’s globally important wildlife and endangered species, as well as creating hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural benefits each year,” Mr Glanznig said.
“It’s a technology that continues to provide for our environment and primary industries.”
The Center for Invasive Species Solutions is working on the fourth phase of a long-term rabbit biocontrol pipeline strategy to develop genetic biocontrol technologies, more efficient ways to monitor rabbit abundance through new satellite imaging methods and the use of artificial intelligence.
“A long-term strategic approach to research and development of rabbit biocontrol will ensure that Australia is not pushed to the brink of dealing with one of our most costly vertebrates,” Mr Glanznig said.