News

New strain of rabbit virus spreads to regions

Thursday 16 June 2016

Biosecurity SA has confirmed a new strain of calcivirus is sweeping through rabbit colonies in parts of regional South Australia.


The haemorrhagic virus strain known as RHDV2 was first detected in Murray Bridge earlier this year and is now established in Adelaide, the South East and Koolunga in the Mid North.

Biosecurity SA researchers are monitoring the impact and spread of the virus with help from landowners reporting sightings of dead rabbits and collecting them for testing.

Biosecurity SA welcomes further rabbit samples from across South Australia to track the spread of RHDV2. If you find a rabbit in the field that has recently died please contact Biosecurity SA for further advice on (08) 8303 9505.

Map of confirmed and suspected cases of RHDV2 in SA as of 9 May 2016 (PDF 381.9 KB).

For further information about controlling wild rabbits visit https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/wildrabbits

Background

RHDV2 was first reported in France in 2010 and has been found in numerous other European countries. It is not known how it reached Australian shores after it was first discovered in Canberra in May 2015.

Biosecurity SA is currently working with the Invasive Animals CRC as part of a national program on a third strain of rabbit calcivirus known as RHDV1 K5.

Planned to be released in 2017, K5 is a Korean strain of RHDV1 selected by NSW Department of Primary Industry researchers as part a coordinated national offensive aimed at combatting rabbit plagues.

Information on RHDV1 K5 and its planned release is available on the Invasive Animals CRC PestSmart website (https://www.pestsmart.org.au).

Quotes attributable to Dr David Peacock, Research Officer, Biosecurity SA

In many parts of South Australia the first calcivirus released in the mid-90s reduced rabbit numbers by about 90 percent. The early signs are the RHDV2 outbreak may also cause major reductions in the population.

Landowners are urged to keep using traditional techniques such as poisoning and warren destruction to slow the recovery of rabbit populations affected by the RHDV2 virus.

European rabbits have been a widespread and devastating pest in Australia for more than 150 years with a cost to our agricultural industries estimated to be over $200 million annually.

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