Rabbits have become a number one pest for Australians. They are causing damage to the plant life which has turned once fertile soil into sandy desserts. They are also a menace to farmers. The rabbits eat their crops and contaminate the land and waterholes the farmers use to raise sheep and other livestock.
Rabbits were introduced into Australia in 1788, but they were for the most part caged and their population controlled. However, in 1859 Thomas Austin asked his nephew to send him 24 wild rabbits for hunting. Other neighbors soon followed this example and released their caged rabbits into the wild as well. Within ten years, the population of rabbits had expanded into the millions and the damage had begun. The fast rate of reproduction was mostly due to the fact of there being no natural predator for the rabbit in Australia and that rabbits can reproduce up to eight times a year.
In 1901 a Royal Commission was held to discuss the problem. It was decided that a “rabbit proof fence” should be built to protect the farmer’s lands. The building of a fence that would stretch for hundreds of miles was completed in 1907. However, this was only the first part of the fence as it had to be added onto two more times and to this day is still being maintained. Unfortunately, this very costly endeavor has not been very effective because the rabbits had already crossed over the barrier line by the time the first part was completed.
Other attempts at control were the obvious methods of shooting and trapping, which at one time made Australia the number one exporter of rabbit pelts. Nevertheless, the only method that even made a dent in the rabbit population was the use of biological warfare in 1958. The procedure was to inject several rabbits with a virus that would easily spread to the other rabbits. Although this method worked for a while, the rabbits have since developed a genetic immunity to the virus causing it to be less effective. There was...