Sterilization could be the next weapon in the war against rabbits in
Australia, the chief of South Australia's calicivirus program said today.
Ron Sinclair, the SA calicivirus release coordinator said the CSIRO
[Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization] was already
working on ways of spreading a protein to rabbits to make them sterile.
According to the article, there are reports that rabbits had already grown
immune to the calicivirus [that causes rabbit hemorrhagic disease, i.e.,
rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), which the Australians call rabbit
calicivirus and the disease rabbit calicivirus disease or RCD]. It was
hoped the protein would be spread in the same way as RHDV -- via insects.
Sinclair said three years' research had already been done but it would take
about another 10 years before it [sterilization protein] could be properly
developed. He said even if a sterilization program was developed, the onus
would be on farmers to do more, rather than rely solely on biological
control to destroy rabbits which caused millions of dollars damage to
farming areas. [Further, he said that controls such as RCD and myxomatosis
would never get rid of the last rabbit, adding farmers needed to rip up
warrens to maximize the impact of the disease. He was quoted as saying,
"If you just think a biological control agent is going to get rid of your
rabbit problem, you're fooling yourself."
The article said that recent reports had suggested rabbit numbers were at
20 per cent of pre-RCD levels in some parts of the Northern Territory where
warrens had not been ripped up. But Sinclair said the warrens were crucial
to rabbit breeding and protection from predators.
He also said the day would come when rabbits became immune to RCD but there
was no suggestion it had already happened.
However, it has been discovered the virus was harder to spread in humid and
tropical areas of the country because the weather often kept insects less
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