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Virus release reminder to control rabbits

Western Australian landholders are reminded to take part in the release of the recently introduced RHDV1 K5 rabbit biocontrol virus.

RHDV1 K5 is a strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, which was nationally released in March of this year to target Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development senior development officer Henry Brockman said the virus was released at 110 sites in Western Australia, as part of a broader national release.

Dr Brockman said analysis of results was underway but preliminary rabbit count data showed a 42 per cent average reduction in wild rabbit numbers at 52 national sites where RHDV1 K5 was released.

“RHDV1 K5 is now available as a commercial product to authorised users,” he said.

“Late spring provides good conditions for release of the virus, as there are fewer young rabbits which have a higher chance of developing immunity and insect activity is higher to help spread the virus among rabbit populations.”

Under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 online training must be completed to become an authorised user of RHDV1-K5.

“If you had previously completed the online training as part of the initial release, you do not need to repeat the training,” Dr Brockman said.

“It is recommended that land managers contact their local biosecurity group before applying for the virus, to ensure releases are coordinated or to determine if a release has already occurred within their area.

“Coordinated, landscape scale release of rabbit biological control viruses will maximise effectiveness.”

Dr Brockman also reminded farmers to follow the release with other control practices to maximise the reduction in numbers.

Landholders are encouraged to report any rabbit sightings or signs of disease, and submit samples.

Reports can be provided online via the RabbitScan website or the RabbitScan smartphone app – available via iTunes and GooglePlay.

More information on the release in WA and training is available on the department website.

Owners of pet rabbits are reminded to take steps to protect their rabbits and talk to their local veterinarian about vaccination. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) website provides more information on RHDV protection and prevention.