GO TO ALL: Bio-Control Cases
Rabbits from Europe invaded Australia where they became severe crop pests. Biological control attempts resulted in the importation of a myxomytosis virus which caused high mortality among the rabbit populations. Although considerable practical reductions of the rabbits were realized, they still continue to pose severe threats to the fragile flora of Australia and compete for the available food on the open rangeland. Mutants of the virus that are more viral continuously appear, followed by the immediate development of resistance in the rabbit populations.
Pathogens have in a few cases been used successfully in the biological control of vertebrates. A well-known example is the introduction of the myxoma virus of rabbits to Australia and, later, to Europe for control of the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, with dramatic results (Ross & Tittensor 1986). Rabbit haemorrhagic disease. another rabbit pathogen, was introduced to Macquaries Island between Tasmania and Antarctica (van Driesche & Bellows 1996).
In Europe the same species of rabbit coexists with various viral diseases and does not reach the high numbers found in Australia. Tularemia is a plague that infects rodents, especially rabbits and hares worldwide. The causative agent is the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which has not been considered for introduction into Australia.