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Barnaby Joyce and Niall Blair media release: New rabbit control win for community and environment

A new weapon will be unleashed in the war on wild rabbits - Australia’s single worst, most widespread, destructive and costly environmental and agricultural vertebrate pest animal.

Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce and Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, announced the release of RHDV1 K5 would take place at more than 600 sites across Australia.

Mr Joyce said rabbits cause over $200 million in lost agricultural production every year.

"Rabbits are a significant threat to biodiversity, affecting 304 nationally threatened plant and animal species," Mr Joyce said.

"Prior to the introduction of the first biological control agent in 1950 the impacts of rabbits were devastating, leading to the abandonment of some farms. Together, the combination of myxoma virus and calicivirus currently limit wild rabbit populations to about 15 per cent of their potential numbers, but immunity and resistance have again become an issue.

“A global search, by Australian researchers, for a new strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) to boost the effectiveness of existing rabbit biocontrols, has delivered RHDV1 K5, which is a Korean strain of the virus.

“Australian, state and territory governments, hand-in-hand with research and industry bodies worked together since 2014, screening 38 strains of RHDV, to identify an effective strain which could manage the wild rabbit populations which devastate our nation.”

Mr Blair said the NSW Government is committed to managing the impacts of pest animals on agriculture and the environment.

“Rabbits are universally recognised for their formidable reproduction powers - in just two years, two rabbits can multiply to 200 rabbits. In another two years their population could explode to 40, 000,” Mr Blair said.

“The NSW Department of Primary Industries has played a lead role in establishing and driving the rollout of RHDV1 K5 – we encourage land managers to take advantage of the virus and follow up with conventional pest control to best manage rabbit impacts.

“Pet owners should vaccinate rabbits and consult a veterinarian for advice on how to protect their rabbits.”

National release of RHDV1 K5 has been delivered through the Invasive Animals CRC, with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and NSW governments, CSIRO, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia.

MEDIA:

Joyce: Vikki Campion - 0406 530 616

Blair: Evie Madden - 0409 682 163