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Growing rabbit problem in city sportsgrounds, golf clubs, parks.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Growing rabbit problem in city sportsgrounds, golf clubs, parks

3 September 2009 DAFF09/313B

New maps released today show rabbits are increasingly edging into our cities, with reports of damage to urban sportsgrounds, golf clubs and parks.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said rabbits were once seen as a problem affecting farmers and regional areas - but that was changing.

For the first time, researchers have produced national maps pinpointing rabbit populations, based on reports from more than 3,000 individual landholders and community groups.

The maps were created under the RabbitScan project, run by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, which is supported by the Federal Government.

The project received a significant number of reports of rabbits causing significant damage to community facilities and around public buildings in urban areas.

A sports oval manager from the Central Coast in NSW said he had used two tonnes of soil in six weeks to fill-in rabbit holes. He said the sportsfield was currently closed due to the extensive damage.

According to another report, overgrown vegetation around a power station in Melbourne is home to a growing rabbit population.

In the Brindabella Ranges outside of Canberra, rabbits are reportedly chewing through plastic tree guards and have destroyed more than 1,000 seedlings.

Rabbits were first introduced into Australia 150 years ago, when 24 were released at a property near Geelong for hunting.

They are the most costly pest animal: responsible for an estimated $200 million damage each year.

Rabbits can eat crops, saplings, shrubs and native vegetation and can ringbark small trees. Their warren holes cause livestock injuries and can lead to dam and river banks collapsing with erosion.

The calicivirus was initially successful, reducing rabbit populations in some areas by up to 90%, but with increasing immunity, numbers have again risen in recent years.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said the Federal Government was investing in both research and control.

“Pest animals cost our farmers, cost the environment and cost the community - controlling them is a constant challenge,” Mr Burke said.

“Rabbits cause the most damage of any pests, including to farming land, native vegetation and increasingly to city sportsgrounds, golf clubs and parks.”

In July this year, the Federal Government announced $57.5 million for 57 feral animal control projects across Australia, under Caring for our Country.

This included $1.5 million for the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre to develop a new strain of the calicivirus and other funds for rabbit control.

Further information, including maps, is available at