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RHDV1 K5 pest rabbit biocontrol – national release update
|8 June 2017
Ø National release of a new strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, called RHDV1 K5, commenced in the first week of March at close to 600 sites across the country.
Ø In Western Australia there have been 110 release sites.
Ø Since the initial release of in March 2017, there have been confirmed cases of wild rabbits succumbing to the RHDV1 K5 strain at six release locations in WA.
Ø Confirmed cases of RHDV1 K5 have been found in Bridgetown, Donnybrook, Milyeannup National Park, Esperance, Mandurah and Albany.
Ø Nationally, preliminary analysis based on pre and post rabbit counts from 52 release sites, has shown a
Ø Domestic rabbit owners are advised to seek advice from their local veterinarian and use protective biosecurity measures to help keep their rabbits safe from infection.
Ø RHDV1 K5 is now available as a commercial product to authorised users, however winter is not best practice period for release. Late Spring and Autumn are ideal conditions for deliberate releases of RHDV1 K5, when insect activity is high, but when there are also a low proportion of very young rabbits present.
Ø RHDV1-K5 Authorisation Training is available at DAFWA’s Client Online Training website. This course is compulsory for those seeking to become authorised users of RHDV1-K5, a restricted chemical product containing rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus.
Ø Coordinated, landscape scale release of rabbit biological control viruses will maximise effectiveness and produce greater results than patchy, individual landholder releases. DAFWA recommends land managers contact their local biosecurity group before applying for the virus to coordinate a release or to determine if a release has already occurred within their area. Biosecurity group contact details are available within online RHDV1 K5 training package.
About the RHDV1 K5 national release
Ø RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus, but is a naturally occurring Korean variant of RHDV1 already present in Australia.
Ø It is expected that RHDV1 K5 will work better in the cool-wet regions of Australia, where the existing strain has not been so successful.
Ø Pest rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural and environmental pest animal, costing upwards of $200 million in lost agricultural production annually.
Ø RHDV1 K5 is anticipated to slow down the increase in pest rabbit numbers, by reducing rabbit populations by up to ~ 40%.
Ø The goal is for RHDV1 K5 to ‘boost’ current management.
Ø The release is the culmination of more than six years of research undertaken by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre RHD ‘Boost’ project.
Ø This is the first release of a new rabbit biocontrol agent in 20 years.
Ø To maximise the effectiveness of RHDV1 K5, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) is seeking the support of release site managers, communities and the general public:
o Domestic rabbits with up to date vaccinations for the existing strain are likely to be safe from RHDV1 K5. Domestic rabbit owners are advised to seek advice from their local veterinarian and use protective biosecurity measures to help keep their rabbits safe from infection.
o RHDV1 K5 will be most effective if supported by integrated pest management, with conventional control measures being undertaken following release of the virus.
o A series of instructional ‘how-to’ videos on best practice rabbit control has been released by the Invasive Animals CRC.
o All members of the public are urged to get involved by using the RabbitScan (FeralScan) app to report rabbit sightings or signs of disease. This will help track the spread of the virus.
o Land managers are strongly encouraged to carry out concurrent control for predators such as foxes.
The release of RHDV1 K5 was delivered by the Invasive Animals CRC with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and state governments, and industry and non-government organisations.