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Australian Rabbit Plague Emerging February 17, 2012
Archive Australia rabbit photo
Shortly after their introduction to Australia in 1859, European rabbits reached plague proportions. Farmers and others tried rabbit-proof fences, traps, poisoned baits and fumigating machines, but had little success.
Two consecutive years of heavy rainfall across much of Australia have triggered a population explosion of crop-ravaging rabbits, which have reached plague proportions not seen since 1995.

That’s before a deadly rabbit disease escaped from a research facility on a South Australian island, wiping out millions of the pests.

But those that survived are now mainly immune to the calicivirus, and scientists at the country’s Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Center are rushing to collect more potent strains, or even another virus to kill the hoppers.

“We're in this phase where we've had two years of consistent green grass available over most of the state, and it's the green grass that promotes breeding,” said Victoria state Department of Primary Industries' John Matthews.

Rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859 by a wealthy rancher who wanted them for sport.

But hunters could not keep up with the extraordinary rate at which the animals multiplied.

Photo: Australian National Archives