RCD (Rabbit Calicivirus Disease) and Native Fauna
The rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) was introduced to New Zealand this year. The DOC has activated its response plan to deal with any potentially negative impacts the desease may have on Native Species and ecosystems.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ARTHUR'S PASS & REGION
RCD may impact indirectly on native species (Kea, Kiwi, Braided River Birds) in Arthur's Pass National Park through the side-effect of "predator-prey switching". By killing rabbits, RCD reduces the amount of food available for predators like Stoats and Wild Cats. This means that after a time, hungry predators start looking at native birds, lizards and insects as a food source.
NEW ZEALAND - WHAT IS AT RISK ?
Species at risk are found throughout New Zealand, however the majority are found in the Otago and Canterbury regions. Birds, native lizards and some of the country's large insects make up the 29 species identified in DOC's response plan as being at risk from the impacts of a rabbit decliine due to RCD. There are also four (4) high profile sites containing dabchick, Crested grebe, Albatross, Yellow-eyed Penguin and Sooty Shearwater, and three historic sites that are potentially at risk.
SPECIES AT RISK IN THIS NATIONAL PARK
- Black Stilt
- Waimakariri River Basin (extremely rare 105 in wild remain).
- Waimakariri River Basin.
- Black-fronted Tern
- Waimakariri River Basin, and lower tributaries.
- Great Spotted Kiwi
- Bealey Valley, all valleys as far as Poulter River.
WHAT IS DOC DOING ?
DOC has already started trapping predators and monitoring species at priority sites, and this activity will increase as further sites are identified. Very close monitoring of Black Stilts is continuing.
IF YOU FIND A INFECTED RABBIT ...
- Do not touch it ! and definitely DON'T MOVE IT !!!!!!!!
- Either contact the MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE and FISHERIES (MAF), the nearest DOC FIELD CENTRE to the site, or the LOCAL AUTHORITY (the local council or regional council). Give very good detail of the location !
THE POLITICS OF RCD
The DOC is not against the introduction of RCD, nor is MAF. However what is of concern to both organisations is the very likely chance of an unmanaged introduction of RCD where this leads to eratic and ineffectual outbreaks or increases rabbit resistance to the virus. Any introduction needs to be accompanied by a trapping campaign aimed at stoats, ferrets and cats to reduce the impact of predator-prey switching on native species. in fact RCD may produce conservation benefits by allowing native plants to regenerate without rabbit grazing pressure.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
Land owners and farmers with both rabbits and threatened native species on their properties can help by working with DOC on its monitoring and trapping programmes.