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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 39(4)

Rabbits: manageable environmental pests or participants in new Australian ecosystems?

Brian D. Cooke

Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre and Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. Email: brian.cooke@canberra.edu.au

Wildlife Research 39(4) 279-289 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR11166
Submitted: 22 September 2011  Accepted: 8 February 2012   Published: 26 April 2012


 
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Abstract

Some theorists argue that plant and animal species introduced to new localities should be controlled only if they cause damage and not because they originated in another country; this warrants greater acceptance of introduced species as participants in new ecological associations in a rapidly changing world. To evaluate this concept and its relevance in setting directions for rabbit control in Australia, this idea is not only reviewed against information on the rabbit’s impact in Australian ecosystems but also against management policies, industrial drivers and social expectations. It is concluded that wild rabbits hold many natural Australian ecosystems in a degraded state and any beneficial ecological roles rabbits provide are small by comparison. Furthermore, rabbits can be controlled adequately to initiate ecosystem restoration. The idea that introduced rabbits should be more readily accepted as participants in new ecosystems is strongly counter-argued. Rabbits are not harmless passengers in Australian ecosystems and, to achieve ecosystem recovery, a high level of rabbit control is necessary.

Additional keywords: conservation, ecological impact, habitat change, political context, practical control, resource loss.


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