New weapon in the war on rabbits in the New England Electorate

27 Oct 2016


  • 418 sites across Australia will participate in the release of a new variant of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus - RHDV1 K5.
  • It’s been 20 years since the last rabbit biocontrol was released in Australia.
  • A RabbitScan mobile app is now available to enable people to contribute to the national data set


The Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce has welcomed the announcement that a new virus known as RHDV1 K5 will be trialled next year at 418 sites across Australia in an effort to significantly reduce wild rabbit populations and their negative impact on agricultural production and native ecosystems.


Mr Joyce said there had been 755 expressions of interest – including 71 in the New England Electorate - received from groups wanting to take part in the national roll-out of the new biocontrol agent.


Mr Joyce said community organisations, Landcare groups and government land managers will be participating in the national rollout of the virus as part of the Coalition Government’s $1.2 million commitment to assist with the research and development of new wild rabbit control methods.


At Glen Innes 27 sites have been approved for the roll-out. Two sites have been selected at Glencoe, Pinkett, Ben Lomond, Red Range and Emmaville with one each at Dundee, Nullamanna, Swan Vale and Llangothlin.


Four sites have been identified around Armidale and Ebor, three at Inverell and Tamworth and two each at Ashford and Bithramere. Other sites include Atholwood, Castledoyle, Delungra, Gidley, Merriwa, Tenterfield, Uralla, Urbenville, Warrah Creek, Willow Tree and Woodenbong.


“Australia has a good track record when it comes to the biological control of rabbits. When we first released a rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus in 1995, populations in arid areas of Australia, which had multiplied to around 600 million, were reduced by 98 per cent,” Mr Joyce said.


“This built on the massive reductions achieved in the 1950s from the release of the myxoma virus, which killed more than 85% of Australia’s wild rabbit population.


“It gave the environment time to regenerate and our farmers a fighting chance to keep wild
rabbits at bay using traditional pest management techniques like baiting and traps.


“Two decades on, populations are on the rise again and a new coordinated effort between governments, researchers and communities is needed to address these pests and reduce costs to farmers and the environment.


Glen Innes-district superfine wool producer, Tim Hughes said the release of the new strain of the virus was good news for producers.


"Out of control rabbit populations cause damage to crops and pastures, create erosion and threaten sustainable ecosystems. Any attempt to control rabbit numbers can only be a good thing for primary producers,” Mr Hughes said


The national trials of RHDV1 K5 is the culmination of work undertaken by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and offers a clear way forward in the fight against this national pest. 


“Estimates show a conservative knockdown of the rabbit population somewhere between 10 and 40 per cent, dependent on the location and conditions. It’s no silver bullet, but it’s our best option to address resistance to existing RHDV strains.


“For the sites not selected as a part of this roll-out, I encourage you - and everyone - to get involved by downloading the RabbitScan mobile app and contribute to the national data set that will monitor the spread of the virus and the impact on rabbit populations.”


RabbitScan can be downloaded from

A commercial product will also be available shortly after the official release.

For more details about the RHD-Boost project, visit


Fast facts

  • RHDV1 K5 is a naturally occurring Korean variant of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus currently found in Australia.
  • RHDV1 K5 is estimated to have a conservative knockdown average between 10 and 15% of the wild rabbit population in Australia, and up to 40% in cool-wet areas.
  • RHDV1 K5 was selected for the national programme to boost rabbit biocontrol on the basis that it should work better in cool-wet regions of Australia where rabbit populations have demonstrated resistance to the existing RHDV strains.
  • A vaccine to protect domestic rabbits against RHDV1 has been available in Australia since 1996 and studies demonstrate effective protection against the RHDV1 K5 variant.

Note: Figures and statistics comes from

Knockdown average of 10-15% -

98% reduction in arid areas –


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