Rabbits in Australia
Domesticated rabbits were first brought to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. The first wild rabbit population was established on the mainland after 24 rabbits were released in Geelong, Victoria in 1859. They adapted extremely well to Australian conditions and multiplied rapidly, spreading across the country as far as north Queensland in little over 20 years. Australia now contains the largest feral rabbit population in the world.
Rabbits in Pittwater
The feral rabbit population is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the Pittwater Local Government Area and is partly attributable to the accidental or deliberate release of pet rabbits into bushland as well as suburban areas.
Feral rabbits are mostly concentrated headland reserves where there has been a visible increase in land degradation and a decrease in species diversity. However, rabbits are also found in smaller bushland reserves, golf courses, sporting fields and private properties where they can harbour in the vegetation and graze on open lawn.
What the law says about rabbits
- Owners of public and private land are required to “fully and continuously suppress and destroy" rabbits on their land under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998.
- Competition and land degradation by feral rabbits is listed as a key threat to endangered Australian native animals and Ecological Communities under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.
- The release of non-native animals without a license (apart from homing pigeons) is prohibited under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
- Abandoning animals is prohibited under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, with a maximum penalty of $5500 or 6 months jail.
Rabbits are a problem because they:
- Destroy native vegetation communities by eating native seedlings, digging and increasing soil nutrients (from their droppings)
- Increase erosion by grazing and digging
- Damage lawns, gardens and playing fields by grazing and digging warrens
- Eat the seedlings of native and garden plants, reducing native plant biodiversity and damaging gardens
- Compete with native animals for food and shelter.
- Provide a key food source to another feral animal, the fox.
What you can do to help
- Keep informed about Current Rabbit Control Programs in your area.
- If you have feral rabbits on your property, please take steps to control them. Read the Rabbit trapping procedure. Trap Hire is available from Pittwater Council.
- Contact a Pest Control Operator.
- Be a responsible pet owner. Think carefully before owning a rabbit as a pet. Rabbits escape easily if their housing is not secure, and the amount of effort required to look after them can be underestimated.
- Can I use Pindone poison on my property?
- More information about Pindone Baiting
If you do own a rabbit:
- Have your rabbit sterilised
- Have your rabbit vaccinated annually for Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease (RHD)
- Make sure the rabbit is properly contained in a secure cage or hutch
- Don't dump the rabbit on public property - find it new owners or take it to the RSPCA Animal Shelter or Animal Welfare League (see web addresses below)
Updated: 20 May 2015