ADELAIDE CONSERVATIONIST John Wamsley fears the rabbit calicivirus disease has killed bettongs and could wipe out wildlife.
Dr Wamsley, the director of South Australia's Earth Sanctuaries, said he believed the calicivirus disease (RCD) killed about 100 burrowing bettongs, short-nosed rat-kangaroos, at his Yookamurra sanctuary in the Murray Mallee a year ago.
He accused the Federal Government of doing research on the cheap before the release of RCD in 1996.
But Dr Wamsley said he had no proof that RCD was behind the bettong deaths because he was unable to recover bodies.
The CSIRO, Primary Industries South Australia and the RCD management group rejected Dr Wamsley's claims, saying there was no evidence that bettongs were afFected by RCD.
Dr Wamsley said he had dismissed the deaths - which reduced the . Yookamurra bettong colony from about 120 to four in a week - as a fluke at the time but recently became convinced that RCD was the killer.
"I was talking to someone a couple of weeks ago and they told me they had a pen of rabbits and red bettongs together (in the Adelaide Hills) and when the calicivirus came through, they all died," he said.
"I don't think they tested calici with all the native animals . . . I'm calling for them now to test on red bettongs and burrowing bettongs as a matter of urgency and, if they are . . . susceptible to it, then I'm asking for a complete rethink of what the CSIRO is on about."
Dr Wamsley said the CSIRO which tested whether RCD affected animals other than rabbits before its release, should be prosecuted under endangered species legislation if the bettongs were killed by the virus.
CSIRO division of animal health chief Mike Rickard said there was no scientific ..evidence that RCD infected native animals or any species other than the European rabbit.
He said the CSIRO and international laboratories had tested 43 different animal species, including brush-tailed bettongs, to show that RCD infected the rabbit only.
Dr Rickard said he would be amazed if RCD affected any animals other than rabbits but he said claims of possible infection should be treated seriously and investigated.
RCD management group chairman Graeme Eggleston said Dr Wamsley's claims were based on circumstantial evidence.
Primary Industries South Australian senior research officer Ron
Sinclair said there was no reason to associate RCD with the deaths.
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