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|Author(s) :||F. Fenner|
The European rabbit was brought to Australia as a companion animal by early settlers. It sometimes escaped, but failed to survive in the Australian bush. In 1859 wild rabbits were deliberately sent to Victoria to provide game for wealthy settlers to shoot. They soon spread all over Australia, except in the tropics, and became Australia’s major animal pest. After careful testing in Australian wildlife and in humans, control by myxoma virus was introduced at various sites between 1937 and 1950, spreading all over the Murray-Darling Basin in 1950. Within one year mutations in the virus had led to slightly less virulence, and these continued for the next 50 years. In the early 21st Century testing viruses obtained from wild rabbits showed that the majority of these viruses were more virulent than the virus used to initiate the epidemic. In 1995 another virus specific for European rabbits, rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, escaped from areas in which field trials were being carried out and spread around Australia. It was more successful than myxomatosis for rabbit control in arid regions.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) – Myxomatosis – Oryctolagus cuniculus – Rabbit haemorrhagic disease.