The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre announced that it has secured enough government funding to extend its rabbit eradication efforts into 2017. Specifically, researchers want to continue to develop new strains of calicivirus, more commonly known as rabbit haemorrhagic fever, a devastating disease that has proven effective in limiting rabbit populations.
Introduced to Australia in 1859, a population of 24 wild rabbits has since ballooned to a population numbering in the hundreds of millions, with a range spanning the entire continent. Each year, rabbits cause hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural damage in Australia. These herbivorous mammals have proven devastating to local flora, and some conservationists believe they may be the number one threat to endangered animals as well.
Continued research into calicivirus might seem like a breath of fresh air to beleaguered farmers and conservationists, but when combating an invasion on such a scale, there is no such thing as a magic bullet. There is a strain of calicivirus native to Australian rabbits that is none fatal, but could serve as a natural vaccination against the strains of the virus introduced for control purposes. This only emphasizes the importance of continued investments into the development of new strains of virus.