|Dingo eating a rabbit
Photo copyright, used with permission.
Rabbits were introduced into Australia with the arrival of the first fleet, 1788, for the purposes of feeding the newly establish British colony.
In the mid-1850s, Australia saw the introduction of Acclimatisation Societies. These societies had two goals - to make Australia feel less alien and more like England and also to import as many different species as possible, animal or plant. The motto of the Victorian Acclimatisation Society was "If it lives, we want it". Some of Australia's most invasive species were introduced at this time.
In 1859, Thomas Austin, a keen hunter and member of the Acclimatisation Society imported about 20 wild rabbits from England, mainly for the purposes of hunting. Austin set 13 rabbits free which within 8 years were ravaging the country. The persecution of dingoes and eagles at the time was not helpful as both were very good at catching wild rabbits and hares. By 1880, with the formation of Pasture Protection Boards, bounties were being offered. Unfortunately, bounties were also placed on predators, thereby exacerbating the problem.
A royal commission was held in Queensland, 1930 to investigate amongst other things, the rabbit pest and dingo menace. The commission revealed that from 1914 to 1929, almost 96 million pairs of rabbits and hares had been exported - for skins. The findings regarding the "dingo menace" does not appear to have been made public.
- Wedge-tailed eagles and to a lesser extent goshawks, falcons and barn owls.
- Foxes, cats and domestic dogs gone wild
- Viruses - myxomatosis and calicivirus
Other Control Methods:
- Warren destruction
- Poisoning (Compound 1080) - very inhumane
- Netting fences (expensive)
- Shooting (not considered very effective and can be inhumane)
Note: Some native animals such as goannas, echidas and possums frequent old rabbit warrens. Destroying warrens can be detrimental to these native animals.