A live domestic female rabbit was removed by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources from a private residence on Kangaroo Island on December 22 after a concerned community member informed the department.
KI holds a rabbit-free status and DEWNR biosecurity officer Andrew Triggs says the impact of rabbit populations on agriculture in Australia is more than $200 million a year.
“That’s a significant cost and in cases where crops are newly emerging, there can be up to 100 per cent loss of the crop through rabbit grazing,” he said.
If the owner of the rabbit is found to have breached the Natural Resource Management Act 2004, they could face up to one year imprisonment and or a $50,000 fine.
“It is the most significant sanction under the NRM act for the ownership of a declared animal,” he said.
Invasive Species Council chief executive officer Andrew Cox, Sydney, said it was important authorities acted promptly to rule out possible further breeding.
“The coming months are critical to conduct surveillance to see if it is just an isolated detection,” he said.
The matter has been referred to the DEWNR compliance branch to determine what legal action will be taken against the alleged owner of the rabbit.