Australian readers should register at www.rabbitscan.net.au and help us map the activities of rabbits during May.
Rabbits are Australia's number 1 vertebrate pest in terms of their impact on the economy, causing over $200,000,000 in damage annually. They stop regeneration of native vegetation in many situations. Some photos of rabbit damage are included under 'biodiversity impacts" in the gallery here. In the National Park in which those pictures were taken, rangers are spending over $300,000 annually trying to control rabbits, unfortunately with little success.
In the century and a half since their introduction, European rabbits have done untold damage to the Australian landscape. The total cost must be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, but no one could give an accurate figure. The landscape just couldn't cope with them.
There have been several major waves of rabbit control. Myxomatosis in the 1950s, the addition of the rabbit flea in the 1960s to give 'myxo' another vector and calicivirus, or rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus in the 1990s. It appears rabbits are slowly coming back from the knock-down of the 1990s and we are asking Australians to get out there in May and help us map them at RabbitScan. It's a great chance for schools to do a practical exercise where the kids discuss science, environment, history and ethics in one package.
You might not have to get "out there" very far. The accompanying picture was taken at 7.35 this morning as I came into our offices at the University of Canberra.