EUROPEAN RABBITS - Oryctolagus cuniculus
Rabbits first arrived in Australia with the European settlers in the 1780’s. The current rabbit plague is not thought to have started until 1859 when 24 rabbits were released into the Victorian bush for hunting.
With their ability to breed so effectively and the lack of appropriate predators, the wild rabbit population in Australia reached over two million within 10 years of being released. Numbers at that time were so high that no amount of hunting or trapping was able to make a noticeable dent on the population. This was the fastest habitat invasion by any mammal, anywhere in the world.
Environmental impact of rabbits:
• displacing native animals
• competing with native animals for resources, such as food, water and shelter
• changing the chemical balance of soil with their manure, which affects the growth of native plants
• causing soil erosion with their warren building
• destroying young plants
• killing seedlings and trees by ringbarking them
• spreading weeds and increasing weed populations
• supporting higher population numbers of cats and foxes.