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Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Potential use of myxoma virus and rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus to control feral rabbits in the Kerguelen Archipelago

B. D. Cooke, J.-L. Chapuis, V. Magnet, A. Lucas and J. Kovaliski

Wildlife Research 31(4) 415 - 420
Published: 23 August 2004


Rabbits have caused enormous damage to the vegetation on seven islands in the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen archipelago, including the main island, Grande Terre. Rabbit sera collected during 2001–02 were tested for antibodies against myxoma virus and rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus with a view to considering the wider use of these viruses to control rabbits. The results confirmed work done 15–20 years earlier that suggested that myxoma virus has not spread across all parts of Grande Terre and occurs at low prevalence among rabbits. By contrast, on Ile du Cimetière, where European rabbit fleas were introduced in 1987–88, the prevalence of myxoma antibodies is high and the rabbit population is relatively low, supporting the idea that the fleas are effective vectors of myxoma virus. Consequently, there should be benefits in releasing fleas on Grand Terre to enhance disease transmission. Reactivity of some rabbit sera in RHD-specific ELISAs suggested that a virus similar to RHDV may be present at low prevalence on Grande Terre but most rabbits are likely to be susceptible and this virus could be considered for use as a future biological control agent.

© CSIRO 2004

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