In this section
The Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia is currently supporting:
Investigating resistance to RHD. A PhD scholarship to determine the extent to which genetics affect the ability of rabbits to resist and survive infection by the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHD). By mapping out the family trees of rabbits in the field it will be possible to tell if genetics are behind an apparent increase in resistance, or whether it is more due to seasonal factors like the abundance of insect vectors and the innate resistance of very young rabbits (who, if infected, retain that immunity for life). If it is the latter, then the planned release of RHD may be better timed for increased virulence. For some early results see the project report or media article.
RHD Boost. The Chair of RFA is chairing the Operations Working Group in support of research to boost the impact of RHD, especially in cooler, wetter regions of Australia, through the release of a more virulent strain. The project has been evaluating different strains and has identified a South Korean variant (K5) as being most prospective. The Working Group brings key stakeholders together to assist in managing the planned release of the K5 variant across Australia’s rabbit infested lands.
RHD has been less effective in controlling rabbits in the wetter, cooler parts of southern Australia than in the arid inland. One reason appears to be that pre-existing related caliciviruses, collectively referred to as RCV-A1, are providing some protection against RHDV. Their role in limiting the impact of RHDV is currently being investigated by an Invasive Animals CRC project being conducted by CSIRO.
The Foundation is also in discussion with researchers and other potential funders to explore opportunities for new projects into:
- RHD vectors – better understanding the role different insects play in transmitting RHD.
- Bio-prospecting – investigating the potential for greater virulence from biological control agents like internal parasites, especially in conjunction with viruses such as RHD.
- The impact of rabbits on the post-bushfire regeneration of native vegetation.