New rabbit virus strikes at Kaniva
Kaniva is one of two sites where CSIRO scientists have confirmed the first deaths of pest rabbits infected with a newly released Korean strain of calicivirus, also known as RHDV1 K5.
Researchers noted one dead rabbit from a release site near the west Wimmera centre and two dead rabbits near another release site at Tanybryn, north of Apollo Bay.
This result comes two weeks after a national release of RHDV1 K5 by community groups and land managers at 150 sites across Victoria.
Agriculture Victoria rabbit biosecurity manager John Matthews said the early result confirmed RHDV1 K5 was starting to work in Victoria.
Mr Matthews said while the release of RHDV1 K5 would boost rabbit control efforts in Australia, it was important to continue other rabbit management techniques to take full advantage of population reductions.
All of the Victorian release sites received tissue sample kits as part of mailed-out information packs in early February.
Scientists are now taking tissue samples from dead rabbits at laboratory testing facilities for analysis.
Mr Matthews said research teams took about one to two days to analyse samples as part of the Invasive Animals CRC National RHDV Monitoring Program.
He said results were logged into Rabbitscan data and an email notification sent back to people who submitted the samples.
“We urge those involved to continue to send tissue samples to the laboratory for testing,” Mr Matthews said.
“These reports are vital to our understanding of the movement of the disease around the country and will assist landholders in making future decisions about rabbit management.”
Mr Matthews encouraged people to help track the spread of the virus by downloading a Rabbitscan smartphone app.
The app allows users to report evidence of disease to help land managers across Australia understand the movement of the virus.
Pest rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing $200-million in lost agricultural production every year, with a further $6-million spent expended on rabbit control measures.