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Rise Of Rabbits In Australia Essay

1888 words - 8 pages

1 General introduction to invasive species

The United States National Invasive Species Information Centre states as per executive order 13112, an invasive species is one that is not indigenous to the ecosystem and is inclined to cause destruction to the ecosystem as well as economy. [1]

These invasive, non-native species are introduced into the community either by human action or by the animal extending its habitat. [2] Invasive species are a huge hazard to the environment because firstly, they uproot or out-compete native species. Secondly, they alter ecosystems and their functions or services for the native species. Thirdly, invasive species cost the economy millions of dollars ...view middle of the document...

Coats of the adult rabbits are usually coloured grey-brown but can differ from a sandy colour to dark-grey or even black, with the underside being white for all. [5] European rabbits generally live for about 9 years. [9]

Rabbits, bred as food animals, were brought into Australia in 1788 by the First Fleet from Great Britain. However, noted absences from archaeological collections of early colonial remain reveal that they did not exist in such numerous amounts in the early decades. [3] The current infestation of rabbits is thought to have originated by the release of 24 wild rabbits for hunting intents by Thomas Austin in 1859 on his property, Barwon Park in Victoria, Australia. [3]

Since their arrival on Australian soil in the 19th century, rabbits have had a widespread impact on the ecology of Australia, leaving much devastation, rampant. Rabbits are thought to be the most significant cause of native species loss in Australia. [4]

Due to their ability to breed rapidly as well as feed on wide range of diet of grasses, roots, tree bark, leaves, grains, fruit, seeds, and buds. European rabbits are adept in establishing themselves in new non-native areas. [5] Documented records have shown billions of European rabbits becoming established, and eliminate food sources for native animals such as goats and sheep, threatening their survival. At 3 months of age, the female rabbit becomes sexually mature, and ovulate only when copulation is elicited. They can produce up to 6 litters a year, with each litter consisting of about 3 to 8 young. European rabbits also have a short gestation period of around 28 to 33 days. [9]

European rabbits are also known for their ability to dig large and comprehensive tunnels systems known as warrens with various entrances and exits.[5] This has caused much harm towards the environment, where considerable amount of foraging can cause loss of functional land as well as soil erosion. [5]

3 THE IMPACT OF RABBITS IN AUSTRALIA
Rabbits not only have a significant negative impact on primary productions, but also act as a sylvatic reservoir of disease. Under the classification of feral animals, they are known to carry diseases such as rabies, tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease, and parasites such as the screw worm fly.[20] The widespread degradation of natural ecosystems threatens the native species; especially the rare and the endangered.[3] Factoring in the cost of control and production losses, the economic damage is estimated to be around $600 million per year.[3] Additional environmental damage, which is often irreparable, is yet to be quantified.[11]
Due to their high levels of mating activity, the populations can easily proliferate. Coupled with the widespread damage that the rabbits inflict, the status of pest is justifiably conferred onto them. A single female can produce a yearly litter of 30-40 upon reaching maturation (from five months of age. [11] This gives a theoretical increase of tenfold in...

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