Wednesday, 07 March 2018 09:55

Rabbit killer virus gets go-ahead

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Rabbit damage on farmland near Dunstan, Central Otago. PHOTO: BOB DOUGLAS Rabbit damage on farmland near Dunstan, Central Otago. PHOTO: BOB DOUGLAS

Environment Canterbury says the long-awaited nationwide release of a new strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (calicivirus) will go ahead in the next few weeks.

A hoped-for release last autumn was put off because of delays in the regulatory approvals.

Federated Farmers Otago provincial president Phill Hunt says this is “incredible news” for farmers in rabbit-prone areas.

“It’s not going to completely fix the problem, but it will give everyone in rabbit-prone areas a bit of breathing space in which they can plan for when rabbit numbers build up again,” Hunt told Rural News.

Hunt farms sheep and beef on 470ha between Wanaka and Hawea and says he spends thousands every year on killing rabbits, on top of the efforts of voluntary rabbit shooters he allows on his property.

He says when the calicivirus release was delayed a year ago he was having to consider extra control measures but in the end did nothing. 

“We have been awaiting this decision so we were reasonably confident common sense would prevail.” 

ECan is handling the process for the New Zealand Rabbit Coordination Group (RCG) – people from regional and district councils, Federated Farmers, DoC, MPI and Land Information NZ.

Graham Sullivan, Environment Canterbury regional leader biosecurity, said the decision is a milestone for the agencies working to curb wild rabbit damage to farms and the environment.

The controlled release will be in March and April because “research suggests this is the optimal time to increase the effectiveness of the virus against wild rabbit populations,” Sullivan says. A high-quality commercially prepared product will be used at sites selected by the councils.

“While not the silver bullet for rabbit control, we anticipate the new strain will greatly assist the control of wild rabbit populations by supplementing more traditional control methods. The impact of the RHDV1 K5 release will be monitored at a range of representative sites.”

RHDV1 K5 is a Korean strain of the existing RHDV1 virus already widespread in NZ and only affects the European rabbit. Sullivan says RHDV1 K5 was selected for release because it can better overcome the protective effects of the benign calicivirus (RCA-A1), which occurs naturally in wild rabbit populations in NZ.

Meanwhile, Sullivan is advising pet rabbit owners to talk to their vets about protection against the new strain.

Australian studies show an existing vaccine will protect against the new strain. Sullivan says the maker has confirmed there will be extra supplies.

More like this

Getting on top of a lousy problem

For strong wool sheep, lice infection is a nuisance more than a hefty financial cost. But, for fine wool sheep the financial toll is much greater. 

Why the stripes?

An experiment on a herd of cows in central Japan appears to have proven a radical, nature-inspired solution to a pest problem plaguing farmers.

Freshwater plan a killer blow

A national limit on dissolved nitrogen would “essentially eliminate” intensive agriculture in the Selwyn Waihora catchment, says Environment Canterbury chief scientist Dr Tim Davie.

A resource not a pest

A conservation and hunting lobby has criticised a call by Environment Canterbury for more funding to prevent a national plague of wallabies.

Featured

$26m boost to rural health

The government has announced a $300 million dollar capital investment in health, with $26 million going to regional and rural service projects.

New levy to hit farmers

The New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) is up in arms about a proposed new safety levy.

 

Winegrower wins a Nuffield

For the first time in 45 years, a member of New Zealand’s wine industry has won a Nuffield Scholarship.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Says it all!

A mate of yours truly reckons one only needs to look at the gongs given out in the New Year…

Easily bought

This old mutt was not surprised to see a number of supposed ag industry ‘thought leaders’ (a pompous title if…

» Connect with Rural News