Local solutions provide a spotlight on Australia’s most destructive pest

Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Media Release

The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources in collaboration with the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre are piloting a new initiative in Victoria to improve rabbit management.

Michael Reid, the National Rabbit Facilitator, said “rabbit management is not only a technical activity; it’s very much a people issue.”

“We know that in two years, two rabbits can become 200, and in another two years they can become 40,000 if left unchecked. If we are to make any headway on Australia’s most destructive pest we need to work together,” he said.

Rabbits are Australia’s most destructive pest, and threaten over 300 species and cost agriculture $200 million annually.

The initiative is bringing together community, industry and government to support local based solutions through the Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN).

Gerry Leach, a wheat and sheep farmer from western Victoria and Chair of VRAN said, “it has been consistently demonstrated that the best way to achieve positive outcomes in pest management is to empower those with the problem to take ownership of developing the solutions”.

VRAN are currently piloting a Small Grants Program, investing in ten Victorian communities to support local innovation. One example of a project the VRAN has funded is with the Bellarine Landcare group.

 A ‘Rabbit Action Bellarine’ working group has been established to coordinate the roll out of the program right across the region.  The group is piloting a ‘cluster leader’ approach in rabbit hot spots which allows for a more coordinated approach to rabbit management.

Emma Camilleri, the Bellarine Landcare Facilitator said, “the working group will provide both technical support and training to assist cluster leaders in engaging neighbouring properties. It means face-to-face conversations so local farmers and residents properly understand what we need to do to tackle rabbits in one big cooperative effort.”

“There have been many failed attempts to control rabbits in the Bellarine area, so trying something different, and with a joined up community-led program, is an encouraging way to tackle the rabbit issue,” Ms Camilleri said.

Geoff McFarland, community member and driver of the project has already been involved with the VRAN through participating in last year’s Rabbit Leadership Program, a three-day course focused on technical and engagement issues.

“The most important thing in terms of tackling the problem is that you must have the wider community involved and understanding the problem,” he said.

“This comes down to good engagement and also knowing what control techniques are best suited to the area. The Bellarine project is an especially exciting one in that it enables us to bring the different aspects of rabbit management all together in one spot.”

Michael Reid, the National Rabbit Facilitator, said “it’s exciting to see what’s happening in Victoria, and there is growing interest from other states in regards to the approach.”

“Last year the VRAN convened the first Rabbit Conference in Victoria since 1958 and also ran a Rabbit Leadership Program, building the next generation of people who have a solid understanding of rabbit management. There is a positive buzz with people who are engaged with this project.”

The Victorian Rabbit Action Network is funded through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and the Victorian Government.

Further information

Contacts for other projects funded through the Initiative are available through contacting Michael Reid, on (02) 6043 7975

More information on the Network can be found at https://rabbitaction.com/

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