WARNING: If you’re feeling squeamish, please don’t read any further.
Most of you have probably heard of the film “The Rabbit Proof” fence. The fence is a striking symbology of the mistakes we’ve made, and the often flawed later attempts to address those mistakes. I’m not going to talk about the actual subject of that film, the stolen generations, that’s way to massive mistake for me to give justice to. But I did want to give you some insight into rabbits in Australia.
Rabbits were first introduced into Australia with the first fleet, but the main outbreak is attributed to a farmer who introduced 24 rabbits in the mid 19th century, claiming they could do little harm . He even had his workers dig holes for them. Well they bred like rabbits. The population grew exponentially, causing severe environmental damage, loss of habitat, severe soil erosion, and economical impact on farms. At the start of the 20th century, the rabbit proof fence was an example of the structures the government put in place, with best of intentions, but failing to really understand the issues they were dealing with. It was of course a failure. By the mid 20th century, a hundred years after that two dozen were introduced, the population was estimated at being over half a billion rabbits !!
Mid 20th century saw the introduction of biological weapons. “Mixo” or myxomatosis was introduced and wiped out large number of the rabbit population. A mosquito transmitted disease, rabbits develop tumours and can often be seen wandering around during the day with eyes scabbed over. It takes weeks for the animals to die. It seems incredibly cruel. Yesterday I saw a rabbit with mixo, eyes scabbed over, but it was still grazing, so was early stages I’d say. It’s really hard to know what to do. I’m conflicted between knowing how bad these pests can be and doing what I would think is the humane thing. Putting the animal out of it’s misery stops it spreading the disease to it’s brood, which eventually will just lead to an even bigger problem. I tend to let the un-natural nature take it’s course.
Last night I heard some rabbits scream. If you’ve never heard a rabbit squeal, it’s a terrible sound. I doubt that was the virus, more likely to be some other introduced animal, dog, cat or fox finding easy prey. I was trying to explain this to a friend, hence this blog post. The terrible truth is when you see that little bunny rabbit hopping around the fields during the day, don’t look to close, because it will likely reveal a horrible disease, the compounding of human mistakes. We do have other biological controls these days which are somewhat limited in their spread, but from all accounts are a lot less cruel.
For more on rabbits in Australia see: