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Control of rabbits in arid Australia: destroying the drought refuge

Berman, D. (2008) Control of rabbits in arid Australia: destroying the drought refuge. In: Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference, 10-13 June 2008, Canberra, ACT.

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Rabbits continued to infest Bulloo Downs in southwest Queensland even after rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) had effectively reduced rabbit populations to very low levels in most other arid parts of Australia. Control efforts for over 100 years have all appeared unable to stop rabbits causing damage to cattle production and native plants and animals in the area. In 2001 an experiment established to measure the benefit of rabbit control to biodiversity and cattle production showed warren ripping to cause an immediate reduction in rabbit activity. Three months after ripping there were still 98% fewer rabbits in ripped plots despite these plots being exposed to invasion from surrounding populations. The cost of ripping was high because of the high density of warrens and is prohibitive for a full-scale programme. Nevertheless, ripping warrens just in the rabbit’s drought refuge (2002 -2004) appears to have effectively controlled rabbits over the entire property. Following one good season rabbits still have not recovered where the drought refuge was effectively ripped.
Destroying warrens in the areas where rabbits survived droughts achieved a reduction in rabbits of over 99% ompared to a similar area near Coongie Lakes in South Australia. Low rabbit numbers allowed cattle to continue to be run on the property even though the area experienced seven consecutive years with below average rainfall. It still remains to be seen whether rabbits can recover from this low population-base during a run of good seasons. If rabbit numbers remain suppressed after a run of good seasons then rabbit control by destruction of drought refuge could be repeated at Coongie Lakes and other
drought refuge areas in the arid zone. Identification and treatment of areas similar to Bulloo Downs where rabbits survive drought may relieve a very large area of arid Australia from the damage caused by rabbits.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Corporate Creators:QPIF
Additional Information:© Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
Keywords:Arid Australia; drought refuge; invasive animals; rabbits; warren ripping.
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Animal control and ecology
Live Archive:12 Jun 2009 01:09
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:48

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