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Haemorrhaging virus to attack Wellington rabbit population

Apr 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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Wellington rabbit owners should ensure their rabbits are vaccinated against a virus being released into the wild rabbit population.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is releasing RHDV1 K5, a new strain of rabbit calicivirus, to cull wild rabbits, which are an agricultural pest.

Pest animal’s team leader at the council Glen Falconer says the vaccination to protect against RHDV1 K5 is the same as to protect against the current RHDV1 strain of the virus, and pet rabbits should already have the vaccine.

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“If you haven’t had your rabbit vaccinated, do it now,” Mr Falconer says.

The virus, which causes rabbits to haemorrhage will cull numbers but not entirely eradicate them.

“It’s definitely going to help keen the wild population at low levels,” says Mr Falconer.

Wellington rabbit owner, Matt Tomlinson, says he understands the political pressure the council has to deal with a long term pest problem, but pet rabbits have been overlooked.

“This has caused rabbit pet owners to need to vaccinate their rabbits and almost require them to be kept inside.

“This may not suit all owners and does have an expense to it,” Mr Tomlinson says.

Mr Tomlinson also feels the council has not done an adequate job informing the public.

“I’ve only heard conflicting things.”

The cost of the vaccine, called Cylap, varies, but is normally between $25 and $75.

The Department of Conservation website says rabbits are primarily an agricultural pest because they compete with livestock for pasture.

Rabbits also are a food source for introduced predators, such as possums, and eat native plants, making them an ecological threat as well.

According to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council, in 2016, 3% of New Zealand households had pet rabbits.

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