RABBIT CONTROL IN ALICE SPRINGS
Land for Wildlife (LfW) in Alice Springs is a not-for profit organisation that provides land holders with recognition, access to advice from environmental scientists, and connections to a like-minded community. Supported in part by TNRM, LfW have decades of experience in wildlife habitat protection and restoration in Central Australia. In early 2012, LfW launched a rabbit monitoring and control project in response to the increased rabbit numbers around rural areas, a situation which was inhibiting growth and regeneration in vegetation communities and negatively affecting biodiversity.
Rabbits have been a serious problem in central Australia since the late 1800’s following their release into the wild by early European settlers. Rabbits cause major ecological problems across much of Australia affecting plant and animal biodiversity by out-competing native species for food and destroying vegetation. By removing plants, rabbits contribute to erosion when exposed topsoil becomes vulnerable. A loss of topsoil is devastating to the land and it can take hundreds of years to restore this essential layer.
Using remote sensor cameras across six LfW properties around Alice Springs, researchers were able to get a good snapshot of what was happening across the region and plan control measures accordingly. Over the combined 66 hectares of the properties involved, there were plenty of signs of rabbit activity and landowners had all reported an increasing frequency of adult rabbits and their young across their properties.
On properties where control measures were used, there was a noticeable reduction in rabbit abundance, with one property owner reporting that it was difficult to find any rabbits at all following two weeks of control measures. However, this reduction may also be at least partly the result of a record dry spell for Central Australia. Overall, the project demonstrated that brief, targeted efforts at pest control can be effective at lessening the impact of vertebrate pests on biodiversity and regeneration at a local level.