Rabbit calicivirus: Australia Post may deliver virus by mail

THE Weekly Times reported that the latest strain of the rabbit-killing calicivirus to be released across Australia could soon arrive in Victorian farmers’ mailboxes.

The postal system is being considered as a way to distribute the Korean strain of calicivirus to landholders across Victoria.

A nationwide effort to curb rabbit numbers will see RHDV1-K5 released at 640 sites across the country — including 150 in Victoria — from February 25 to March 6, according to the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.

Victorian biosecurity manager John Matthews, who is co-ordinating the release in this state, has been liaising with Australia Post to find out if it is feasible — and permitted — to send the virus by post.

“If Australia Post says no, then we’re going to have to reconsider what distribution looks like … we’ll just work through the process and they’ll either give us a green flag or a red flag,” he said.

“It will be a green flag with conditions, there’s no doubt about that, and that will be packaging size and dimensions and stuff like that, and if it’s no, we’ll have to reconsider the distribution. We’ve got plenty of time up our sleeve, but it will put another layer of complexity if we can’t use Australia Post but it’s not insurmountable.

“There are courier services right across the nation, my issue is about those really remote areas and ensuring we can get the virus to them in the very best condition.”

An Australia Post spokeswoman confirmed it was not yet contracted, “but was still in discussions about the technical aspects of the product”.

Mr Matthews, who joked that if “all else fails, I’ll walk and deliver it by hand”, said one consideration was that the virus must be kept between certain temperatures “to improve its shelf life”.

Unlike other states, Victorian law allows the virus to be sent direct to landholders for release, Mr Matthews said.

“In the majority of the other states and territories, a person would need to have access to an authorised person and you would only be able to pick up your pre-prepared bait.”

There were more than 300 expressions of interest to be part of the virus’s Victorian release, with about 80 per cent of those chosen private landholders.

Mr Matthews said there was no danger to people handling the virus because it was “host-specific ‚Äî it won’t shift on to any other species so it’s totally safe … it only infects rabbits”.




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