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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 61(3)

The role of quoll (Dasyurus) predation in the outcome of pre-1900 introductions of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to the mainland and islands of Australia

David Peacock A C and Ian Abbott B

A Natural Resources Management Biosecurity Unit, Biosecurity SA, GPO Box 1671, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.
B 1 Caddy Avenue, West Leederville, WA 6007, Australia and Science Division, Department of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Bentley, WA 6983, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: david.peacock@sa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 61(3) 206-280 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO12129
Submitted: 12 December 2012  Accepted: 24 June 2013   Published: 3 September 2013

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We investigated two questions: Why did most historical releases of rabbits on the Australian mainland fail? And why did many releases of rabbits on islands around Australia persist? We reviewed historical sources and present here nearly 300 records of the importation, sale, transportation and release of rabbits in the period 1788–1900, with >90 records before the popularly cited 1859 Barwon Park (near Geelong, Victoria) release by Thomas Austin. Similarly, we present records of localised impact of quolls (especially Dasyurus viverrinus) on rabbits and poultry, indicative of the great abundance of quolls. Rabbits were often imported and traded and releases were frequent and widespread. This evidence implicates native predators, particularly quolls (Dasyurus spp.) as responsible for the widespread and early failure of rabbits to establish on mainland Australia. In contrast, rabbits thrived on many islands, nearly all of which lacked cursorial natural enemies. We suggest that these accounts support the establishment of rabbits from several locations, with Barwon Park being a primary location and rabbit source.

Additional keywords: biocontrol, colonisation, Dasyurus viverrinus, establishment, historical, natural enemies, pest, predator, top-down effects.


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