Advances in the integrated control of the European rabbit in South Australia
- Author(s): Burley, John R. W.
- et al.
In South Australia, success in control of the European rabbit has been based on an understanding of rabbit biology and behaviour. Drastic population reduction is obtained by use of Compound 1080. This method is much more effective when carried out during midsummer to late autumn. At this time, territorial boundaries are relaxed and the young have been weaned and are feeding aboveground. To ensure that the greatest number of rabbits can receive a lethal dose, it is necessary to pre-feed the population with unpoisoned bait over a period of 8 to 10 days. Oat grain has been chosen as the preferred bait material because of its acceptability and to minimize possible off-target effects. As warrens are an essential factor in rabbit survival, warren destruction is a vital part of any effective control programme to prevent a resurgence of the population. Poisoning followed by ripping of warrens and then fumigation provided effective control in the most cost-efficient manner. Warrens can be destroyed with minimal disturbance to areas of valuable native vegetation. By promoting this system of integrated control and by explaining to landholders the biological reasons for its effectiveness, the major rabbit problems of South Australia's agricultural lands have been overcome. In addition to the improvements in farm productivity in both the short and long term, rabbit control often appears to be an essential tool in the management of native vegetation and native herbivores. In the low-rainfall parts of the state, the low productivity of the land makes it difficult to justify this system of integrated control in terms of cost-efficiency. Ripping of warrens by itself has been shown to provide reasonable control in hilly country with 250 to 300 mm of rainfall, when control takes place late in summer when rabbit numbers are low. However, biological control in the form of myxomatosis provides the most likely means of keeping rabbit numbers at a low level throughout the low-rainfall areas. European rabbit fleas from the arid parts of Spain are expected to be introduced soon to help spread myxomatosis more effectively in the arid parts of South Australia.