Plans are afoot to investigate the potential to add two parasites to the armoury in the battle against wild rabbits.
Eimeria intestinalis and Eimeria flavescens are infectious rabbit parasites that have been detected in south west WA, but not anywhere else on mainland Australia. If verified this may be due to a unique rabbit introduction to this region. They are recognised as the two most virulent rabbit coccidian parasites, with the capacity to both reduce body condition and cause mortality, and are known to be absent from a number of sites in NSW and Qld.
A project to be funded through the new Centre for Invasive Species Solutions will use genetic testing to sample a wider range of rabbit populations to determine if the parasites’ occurrence is as restricted as it currently appears. If it is, then there may be prospect to spread the parasites as additional bio-controls for Australia’s worst vertebrate pest. This project was an outcome of an earlier project assessing the potential of new rabbit biocontrols.
David Peacock, from Biosecurity SA, will lead the project, with genetic analyses to be undertaken by Dr Adam Croxford using a genetic sequencing machine located at the Waite precinct.