Breeding like rabbits

Rabbits cost the agricultural industry over 206 million dollars a year, unmeasured though is the cost on Australian native ecosystems from the negative impacts of feral rabbits.

It is thought that rabbits have directly or indirectly caused the extinction of over 300 native animals since their introduction into Australia, mainly through competition for food resources and the erosion of native areas through over grazing and burrow creation.

Rabbits are prolific breeders and an individuals control  efforts can be ineffective.

Using a biological control adds another option for landholders looking at control options.

Unlike the original calicivirus release the knock down effect of the RHDV K5 strain of the calicivirus is a useful tool for reducing the amount of rabbits allowing for more effective follow up control.

The cumulative economic benefits for agriculture alone from MV and RHDV over 60 years are estimated at $70 Billion, or an average of $1.17 billion per year.

Rabbit BIOcontrol details

The PHBG Rabbit Biocontrol Program starts to ramp up around January each year.

Community members can register for the program at any time, and during January information packages will go out to those who are registered. 

Releasing a biocontrol is only effective if part of an integrative management plan that includes additional control techniques such as warren destruction, exclusion fencing, baiting and trapping.

The RHDV1 K5 calicivirus is not a silver bullet in rabbit control.

1. Prefeeding

Community members are asked to do three pre feeding events prior to the release. 

2. Pre-Monitoring

Rabbit numbers are monitored during pre-feeding events to provide base line data.

3. Inoculation of pellets

PHBG Officers are accredited to mix the virus and inoculate a medium for spreading. The virus is only active for a short time after inoculation so planning happens beforehand to organise pick up and drop offs of inoculated pellets to participants. 


Six weeks after the virus is released on site participants are asked to replicate the monitoring done before the release to record rabbit numbers after the release.

5. Follow up control 

Many people hope that releasing the calicivirus will assist them in reducing rabbit numbers. While the virus can be effective at reducing numbers at a site, that reduction will be short lived without follow up control.


From Pest Smart


Additional information from the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)

Use the link below to learn more from the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) about vaccinations for pet rabbits.

Importance of Rabbit Biocontrol Video.


The cumulative environmental benefits of the release of MV in 1950 and RHDV in 1995 includes landscape scale native vegetation regeneration, increased abundance of native plants and animals, continued persistence of many native threatened species, large scale carbon biosequestration, and improved landscape and ecosystem resilience. The cumulative economic benefits for agriculture alone from MV and RHDV over 60 years are estimated at $70 Billion, or an average of $1.17 billion per year.

ABC TV's Landline report on the development and roll out of the RHDV1 K5 strain of the calicivirus.