Rabbit virus program wins top national biosecurity award
THE Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) was recently honoured to receive one of the federal governments’ top biosecurity awards for its role in coordinating the release, monitoring and evaluation of a new rabbit biocontrol agent – the first nationally co-ordinated release in more than 20 years.
RHDV1 K5 – a Korean strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus – was released across 323 community sites within Australia in March 2017, including the Ballarat region, Golden Plains, Surf Coast and the Bellarine.
Co-ordinated locally through Rabbit Action Network’s and Landcare groups with the support of local government, the controlled release of the K5 virus combined with other eradication methods was conducted on both public and private land throughout this region with a significant reduction in rabbit numbers recorded.
At the same time, CISS (formerly the Invasive Animals CRC) set up the National Rabbit Biocontrol Monitoring Program, to enable communities to effectively measure virus impact.
CISS chief executive officer Andreas Glanznig said that the award showcases the value of strong collaboration across research, government and industry bodies.
“The release and subsequent monitoring and evaluation of RHDV1 K5 was a massive combined effort with investment and support from the Australian Government, all state and territory governments, the CSIRO and the livestock industry through Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).
“Since 2009, the collaboration ensured that RHDV1 K5 was rigorously tested, assessed, registered and released at a national scale, consistent with our Centre’s rabbit biocontrol pipeline strategy outlining the need for new and additional biocontrol tools every eight to ten years, to keep rabbit populations at bay.”
Dr Tanja Strive, CSIRO principal research scientist, who leads CISS’s biocontrol program said that this was first time a vertebrate pest biocontrol release was tracked digitally through the National Rabbit Biocontrol Monitoring Program.