Phillip Island community is fighting back against the rabbit

The European rabbit is Australia’s most destructive pest. They are more than just a nuisance on Phillip Island, rapidly becoming a threat to the island’s unique biodiversity, and the community is fighting back.

Beau Fahnle, Nature Parks Ranger said, “We know that as little as one rabbit per hectare is enough to stop the revegetation of native species. Rabbits don’t recognise property boundaries, and that makes them a community problem that we must tackle together.”

The recently formed Phillip Island Rabbit Working Group believes that the key to successfully controlling rabbits on Phillip Island lies in an integrated approach of biological control, technology and community action. Made up of representatives from Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bass Coast Landcare Network, Bass Coast Shire Council and Melbourne Water, the working group has collaborated on a strategy to tackle rabbit control.

As a significant first step in this strategy, community members are invited to come along and learn about a range of control techniques at a Rabbit Control Workshop in Rhyll on Thursday, 1 September, one of a series of such workshops being held throughout the region.

Residents and land managers will have the opportunity to learn about the new RabbitScan app for mapping rabbit activity and control, allowing for much more efficient and effective management of rabbits. There will also be information on the potential release of the new RHDV1 K5 strain of calici virus on Phillip Island, which has been shortlisted as a possible release site.

“A key component in the success of this integrated strategy will be the involvement of community members,” said Beau. “We are seeking interested locals to become ‘local champions’ to tackle the problem by leading rabbit control activities and providing information within their local community area.”

“With the right combination of proven methods, rabbits can be controlled. Rabbits are recognised as ecosystem engineers, so we need to ask ourselves what we want our environment to look like in the future, as we have an opportunity to shape that outcome now.”

Beau concluded, “I encourage local residents and land managers to come along to this workshop and find out how they can become involved.”

This program has been supported by the Victorian Rabbit Action Network, a joint initiative by the Victorian Government and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.