Pa­tience needed on rab­bit virus

Clutha Leader - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - STAFF REPORTER

Otago farm­ers who no­tice dead rab­bits on their prop­erty are be­ing asked to con­tact a biose­cu­rity of­fi­cer at the Otago Re­gional Council, so sam­ples can be taken for test­ing.

Tests from field sam­ples through­out the re­gion in­di­cate deaths as a re­sult of the RHDV1 K5 rab­bit virus.

ORC di­rec­tor of en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing and op­er­a­tions Scott Ma­cLean said while this is ex­cel­lent news, the virus won’t be wide­spread at this stage.

‘‘There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween the nat­u­ral spread of the virus that’s been re­leased now, and the il­le­gal re­lease back in 1997.

‘‘If a virus isn’t left to spread nat­u­rally you’ll see a big im­pact at the start but this will drop off quickly.

‘‘If it’s left to spread nat­u­rally you’ll see the peak around four weeks af­ter the re­lease, and we’re close to that time­frame now.

‘‘It will con­tinue to spread for 12-14 weeks af­ter it’s been re­leased.’’

Ma­cLean said now was the time for land own­ers to plan se­condary con­trol for rab­bits that they can carry out over win­ter.

‘‘By then the virus should be well es­tab­lished, and win­ter is also the op­ti­mal sea­son for rab­bit con­trol.’’

The K5 virus is spread from rab­bit-to-rab­bit con­tact and also through flies act­ing as a vec­tor, and land own­ers are re­minded to not in­ter­vene.

‘‘Hu­man in­ter­ven­tion can po­ten­tially re­sult in rab­bits be­com­ing im­mune to the virus,’’ Ma­cLean said.

‘‘So peo­ple need to be pa­tient and leave any rab­bit car­casses in place so the virus can take hold bi­o­log­i­cally,’’

‘‘This not only gives the virus the best chance to be ef­fec­tive.

‘‘It also means it will have a bet­ter on­go­ing im­pact for years to come.’’

The re­gional council ex­pects the virus to spread in a 20km ra­dius from each of the 100 re­lease sites through­out Otago over the next cou­ple of months, which will cover the ma­jor­ity of Otago.

Ma­cLean said tra­di­tional rab­bit man­age­ment meth­ods wouldn’t be re­placed by the virus, and se­condary con­trol was im­por­tant to keep rab­bit num­bers down.

Farm­ers who no­tice dead rab­bits on their prop­erty are be­ing asked to con­tact a biose­cu­rity of­fi­cer at the Otago Re­gional Council on 0800 474 082.

More in­for­ma­tion can be found at orc.govt.nz

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