©PDPhoto.org.The European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) came out to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. The rabbit was introduced to Tasmania and the first feral populations were recorded in 1827 in south-eastern Tasmania.
From ‘Barwon Park’, rabbits spread north and west, and in 1866 there was another release in Kapunda, South Australia. After that it took only 15 years to reach New South Wales, it reached the south-western border of Queensland in 1887, they were first sighted Northern Territory in 1894 at Charlotte Waters, and by the 1900’s there were feral populations in Western Australia. It seemed as if nothing would stop it, and not far behind the rabbit was the Fox. In 1890, the rabbit population in Australia reached plague numbers and something needed to be done.
In 1907 the longest anti-rabbit fence was finished. It was constructed by the Western Australian Government and it was 1 833 kilometres long. It was from Starvation Boat Harbour, in the south, and Cape Keraudren. One problem was that by the time that most rabbit-proof fences are finished, rabbits have already crossed into the area that the fence is trying to keep them out.
In the 1950’s a virus was introduced. It was called the Myxoma Virus and it caused the fatal Myxomatosis. The proposition of introducing the Myxoma Virus to Australia was put forward in 1918 by a Brazilian scientist called H. de Beaureparie Aragao. It was rejected because it “wouldn’t work”, but the rabbit populations kept getting worse. Finally, in the 1920’s, specially trained scientists of the Australian Government and the CSIRO had begun to assess the possibility of introducing the Myxoma Virus.
Trials were run in Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and southern Australia. These were unsuccessful, but the CSIRO was persistent in developing the virus. Finally they had developed a Virus that would be effective and only species-specific (only effected the specific species). The Myxoma Virus was released at 5 different field sites in the Murray River valley, southern New South Wales.
Eventually the virus lost it’s effect and the populations recovered, due to the survival of rabbits that had natural resistance to the virus. The CSIRO introduced the European rabbit flea in 1957 and again in 1966 to try and give the virus a kick-start again. It was once again a short answer. Finally in 1993 the Spanish rabbit flea was introduced in hoping to help the rabbit populations, but the fleas died out in the hot rangelands.
In 1995 a Calicivirus (RHD, RCD) was introduced and it dropped
the populations down, but it came back up. At the moment the
CSIRO is developing an immunocontraceptive to hopefully reduce