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Geelong Landcare Network


Update on new calicivirus for pest rabbits
There is much interest in the upcoming release of the new ‘K5’ strain of Calicivirus (RHDV - Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus) into the wild rabbit population. It looks set to be released in Autumn 2017.


How fast will K5 spread?
RHDV is spread by insect vectors, such as bushflies and blowflies. Direct contact between a rabbit and a rabbit carcass with RHDV is also an avenue of spread. It is not known how fast K5 will spread through our area. We will have to wait and see. When the first strain of RHDV (Czech strain) was released in Australia in 1996, it spread at rates varying from 9km per month to 414km per month. 

Can I purchase K5 to release on my property?
Once K5 is officially released, it will be available for purchase. Approximate cost will be $120 per vial which will treat about 150 hectares.

How effective will K5 be?
The release of K5 won’t have the same knock-down effect as the Czech strain did when released in 1996. In some parts of Australia the Czech strain knocked the rabbit population by a whopping 90% or more! The impact of K5 won’t be as strong because it is only a new strain of an existing biological control agent, not a totally new biological control agent. A realistic expectation for K5 is a knock-down of 10-40%. 

How can we make the most of K5?
The K5 virus will give us a useful but temporary advantage over pest rabbits. The period immediately following the impact of K5 will be the most effective and economical opportunity we are likely to see in the next few decades to bring rabbits under control. We need to be ready to follow up the initial impact of K5 by destroying warrens and removing harbour to eliminate any rabbits that haven’t been killed by K5. Start preparing now by talking to neighbours and arranging to make a joint effort to tackle any boxthorns, gorse and other rabbit harbour, and to rip rabbit warrens. You may also want to talk to your local landcare group about purchasing a vial of the K5 virus to release locally.

Remember that it takes less than one rabbit per hectare to prevent the successful regeneration of many of our common native trees and shrubs. This means that many rabbit-infested patches of native vegetation can’t sustain themselves naturally and are in slow decline – but unfortunately this often goes unnoticed. The agricultural impact of rabbits in Australia is estimated at $206m per year in lost production. (www.pestsmart.org.au)

Elissa Ashton-Smith, Facilitator, Geelong Landcare Network
23 High St, Inverleigh

Ph 0438 525 502

E: geelonglandcarenetwork@gmail.com