Feral pigs on a western NSW property.
Feral pigs on a western NSW property. Jason Wishart, Invasive Animals CRC

New rabbit disease strains could be a saviour

FOR Andreas Glanznig, one man's poison is another man's antidote.

Or, more accurately for the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre chief executive officer, one industry's pest is potentially the saviour of another.

The Invasive Animals CRC, Australia's front line research facility tasked with fighting feral animals, has just been funded for another four years and Mr Glanznig and his team have some promising new developments in their feral animal control arsenal.

Rabbit control is one area. Rabbits cost Australian agriculture an estimated $200 million, but without control measures like myxomatosis and calicivirus the estimated cost would be about $2 billion annually.

And it is in the calicivirus that problems overseas could provide some help with Australia's rabbit problems.

Mr Glanznig said new strains of calicivirus were killing off farmed rabbits in Korea, Spain and China, and Australia was seeking to release some of those new strains of virus here to keep feral rabbit populations in check.

Farmed rabbits, he said, were constantly developing resistance to calicivirus strains, but the virus was also constantly mutating into new strains that could help Australia fight rising rabbit populations.

There were also promising developments with measures to control feral pigs, wild dogs and European carp.

A new bait, which would be used in conjunction with 1080, is being tested for efficacy by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. Its advantage is that there is a potential vaccine available, so if a bait is taken by a farm or domestic animal, it can be treated.

Then there is a new method of delivering baits. It uses a spring activated release and, while still being tested, does not allow native animals to take baits. And biological controls, similar to those being tested for rabbits, are showing promise in controlling European carp.

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