Fence set to fight rabbit scourge

Picture of rabbits in degraded landscape As they say, ‘don’t place all your eggs in the one basket’. So it can be said for responding to a scourge upon our collective landscape, the European rabbit. The key to any successful vertebrate pest control program is diversity.

As Europeans stepped off the First Fleet, so did the domesticated rabbit. A hearty rabbit stew was a staple diet for early settlers and a sport for game hunting. Populations were released into Tasmania in 1827, Victoria in 1859 and South Australia soon after.

They quickly turned feral. By 1910 plagues of rabbits had spread. The rest is merely history.

The evidence is crystal clear. Rabbits are invasive. They are a curse upon the natural environment. They deplete primary production. Unfortunately they are here to stay.

Eradication is not an option so effective population control is the only tool left in our tool kit.

In recent years this control has turned high tech. A strain of the Korean rabbit virus, colloquially known as RHDV1 K5, was released as part of a national rollout at more than 600 sites, including the bush capital. While still early days, this approach forms the basis of a collective suite of techniques now deployed to reduce this environmental blight. It’s target specific. It kills only rabbits.

Along with traditional poisoning, fumigating, warren destruction and fencing, it is a viable integrated option to protect high conservation reserves.

A rather impressive predator-proof fence stretching 12.5 km around Goorooyarroo and Throsby Offset Area has been constructed as part of an expansion of the highly successful Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. With this imposing fence now in place, our attention has turned to removing those pesky rabbits. Foxes and nasty feral cats will be next.

The goal is relatively simple. Establish a predator free oasis within the expanded sanctuary so we can encourage more native critters in the heart of the bush capital.

This rabbit control phase builds on the insights gained from previous effective programs in the original sanctuary. Work so successful that no rabbits or hares have been detected since September 2016. A remarkable achievement that speaks volumes for the skill and the professionalism of the Parks and Conservation Service team.

While we undertake this critical work, sections of the expanded sanctuary will be closed until 1 March 2019. Please pay heed to the signage and note that a section of the Centenary Trail has been diverted around the closed area.

The Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary expansion, including this integrated pest animal removal, reflects the collaboration between the ACT Government, Australian Government and Capital Woodlands and Wetlands Conservation Trust.

To learn more about visit Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary – Restoring, Learning, Inspiring

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 19 February 2019 in The Chronicle