Biosecurity Tasmania intends to undertake release of rabbit calicivirus, also known as rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, for biological control of European rabbit populations at various sites throughout Tasmania during March and April 2015.
This release is part of a strategic and integrated program to support Tasmanian landowners in their rabbit control activities. Rabbits are a devastating invasive species and cause significant damage to the natural environment and agricultural industries in Tasmania.
Rabbit calicivirus is a highly specific viral disease which only affects European rabbits. It is used by Biosecurity Tasmania where significant negative impacts on the environment have been identified and the use of other control methods by landowners is not suitable. Release is undertaken at this time of year as conditions are most favourable for the greatest spread and effectiveness of the virus.
Rabbit calicivirus is released on carrots following a period of pre-feeding with carrots to attract rabbits to the release site. Release sites will be on public and private land (with prior consent from the landowner). All public land where rabbit calicivirus is being released will be clearly signposted during the release operation. Weather conditions and other factors can influence the effectiveness of the virus so it may not be released at all proposed locations if conditions are not deemed suitable by Biosecurity Tasmania.
Rabbit calicivirus poses no risk to human health or other non-target species. However, it is important to note that rabbit calicivirus is present in the wild rabbit population in Tasmania and domestic rabbits may be affected at any time.
Vaccines to protect domestic rabbits from rabbit calicivirus are available and owners should keep their vaccinations up to date in case of an outbreak. Rabbits that have died from rabbit calicivirus often show no outward cause of death. Domestic rabbit owners and commercial rabbit breeders should consult their local vet about vaccinations.
For further information about the rabbit calicivirus release, please contact Biosecurity Tasmania on (03) 6165 3777, or visit the rabbit calicivirus disease information page on the DPIPWE website.