The impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease on wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) populations in Queensland

Article


Story, G., Berman, D., Palmer, R. and Scanlan, J.. 2004. "The impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease on wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) populations in Queensland." Wildlife Research. 31 (2), pp. 183-193. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR00099
Article Title

The impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease on wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) populations in Queensland

ERA Journal ID3020
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsStory, G. (Author), Berman, D. (Author), Palmer, R. (Author) and Scanlan, J. (Author)
Journal TitleWildlife Research
Journal Citation31 (2), pp. 183-193
Number of Pages11
Year2004
PublisherCSIRO Publishing
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN1035-3712
1448-5494
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1071/WR00099
Web Address (URL)http://www.publish.csiro.au/wr/WR00099
Abstract

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) escaped from quarantine facilities on Wardang Island in September 1995 and spread through South Australia to Queensland by December 1995. To determine the impact of this biological control agent on wild rabbit populations in Queensland, shot sample and spotlight count data were collected at six sites. RHDV spread across Queensland from the south-west to the east at a rate of at least 91 km month–1 between October 1995 and October 1996. The initial impact on rabbit density appeared highly variable, with an increase of 81% (255 ± 79 (s.e.) to 385 ± 73 rabbits km–2) at one site and a decrease of 83% (129 ± 27 to 22 ± 18 rabbits km–2) at another during the first outbreak. However, after 30 months of RHDV activity, counts were at least 90% below counts conducted before RHDV arrived. Using a population model to account for environmental conditions, the mean suppression of rabbit density caused by rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) was estimated to be 74% (ranging from 43% to 94% between sites). No outbreaks were observed when the density of susceptible rabbits was lower than 12 km–2. Where rabbit density remains low for long periods RHDV may not persist. This is perhaps most likely to occur in the isolated populations towards the northern edge of the range of rabbits in Australia. RHDV may have to be reintroduced into these populations. Further south in areas more suitable for rabbits, RHDV is more likely to persist, resulting in a high density of immune rabbits. In such areas conventional control techniques may be more important to enhance the influence of RHD.

Keywordswild rabbit, rabbit haemorrhagic disease
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020410404. Environmental management
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Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Natural Resources and Mines, Queensland
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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