An almost 50 per cent reduction of wild rabbit numbers has been seen on sites where the new Korean strain of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, RHDV1 K5, was released.
NSW DPI scientist and Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre research director John Tracey said RHDV1 K5 had been confirmed to control rabbits across Australia following the national release of the virus at 585 sites in early March.
‘‘Laboratory tests showed 66 per cent of all samples collected from dead rabbits had the K5 strain, including samples from NSW, Victoria, ACT, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia,’’ Dr Tracey said.
‘‘An additional 37 per cent of samples were confirmed to have other RHDV strains.
‘‘Samples and reports, recorded in RabbitScan, www.rabbit
scan.org.au and via the free smart phone app are helping us monitor and track the virus.’’
With early confirmation that RHDV1 K5 had already spread from at least one release site, Dr Tracey expects the virus to spread further, especially in the cooler, wetter areas of the country.
‘‘The real benefits will be realised in the long-term as the virus continues to spread.
‘‘We’re keeping an eye on how it travels with the help from the community, who are continuing to lead rabbit management on the ground.’’
NSW DPI has encouraged land managers to report and record rabbit numbers, activity, warrens, damage and control activities in their area through RabbitScan.
When users report dead animals in the RabbitScan app or online, biosecurity officers are alerted and arrange a disease sampling kit to be mailed out to the report author.
Kits include instructions on how to take and send samples to be tested for disease.
■The free app can be downloaded from the iTunes and Google Play stores by searching for ‘RabbitScan’.