Politics Saved the Rabbit!
Bacteriological Agent Available in 1918
GRAZIERS' Federal Council of Australia has been
delving into the efforts made since 1887 to find some biological means of exterminating the rabbit, and affiliated associations (including the U.G.A.) have been notified of the results.
In December, 1918, Dr. Frank Tidswell, of the McGarvie Smith Institute, Sydney, informed the Graziers' Association of N.S.W. that there was an excellent bac- teriological agent for rabbit de- struction—the Yalgogrin virus— ready to hand, but the matter had political aspects, and, until the possibility of these intruding into any action contemplated had been resolved, it would perhaps be futile to attempt to arrange for
an investigation such as the asso-
ciation had suggested.
The Yalgogrin virus, he added, would kill every rabbit artifically infected with it, but knowledge was lacking concerning the cir- sumstances which would promote its spread amongst rabbits natur- ally once it was introduced.
The correspondence circularised by G.F.C. shows that on August
31, 1887, the N.S.W. Government offered a reward of £25,000 for "any method. or 'process not pre- viously known in the Colony for the effectual extermination of rab bits."
Conditions of the reward in- cluded that the method or process was not to be injurious to domes- ticated animals, and it had to re- ceive the approval of a board, ap- pointed by the Governor-in- Council, after it had been experi- mented with for 12 months.
On April 16, 1888, the N.S.W. Government appointed a Royal Commission "to make a full and diligent inquiry as to whether or not the introduction of contagious diseases amongst rabbits by in- oculation or otherwise, or the pro- pagation of diseases natural to rabbits .... will be accompanied or followed by danger to human health or life, or to animal life other than rabbits, or to interfere injuriously with the profitable carrying on of agricultural or pas- toral pursuits. . ."
The Royal Commission compris- ed representatives of N.S.W, Victoria, N.Z., South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania.
In its report the Commission stated that three representatives of M. Pasteur, of Paris, had been given permission to introduce into N.S.W. cultivations of the microbes of chicken cholera on giving an undertaking not to conduct experi- ments without the sanction of the Commission.
In addition to chicken cholera, the chief diseases submitted to the Commission for consideration were Tintinallogy disease, bladder worm, and rabbit scab.
It was claimed that chicken cholera had proved effective in the destruction of rabbits under experimental conditions in France, and that the disease was not com- municable to pigs, horses, etc.
Under the aegis of the Com- mission, tests were conducted at Rodd Island, but it was found that while rabbits were easily killed by the addition of microbes of chicken cholera to their food, the disease did not spread freely from infected to healthy rabbits.
At Tintinallogy station, on the Darling, rabbits were present in 1884, and increased rapidly in the following years. In September, 1887, 22 men killed 56,510 rabbits, and that year a total of 291,000 was destroyed.
Dr. Butcher, resident at the sta- tion, and Dr. Ellis, of Sydney, dis- cussed the probability of an out- break of disease among the rab- bits, and agreed to investigate any disease which might occur.
The disease, which they called Tintinallogy disease, appeared on the station in September, 1887, and Dr. Butcher commenced ex- periments.
The Commission, reporting on the Tintinallogy disease, stated that the experiments could not be regarded as conclusive, and Drs. Butcher and Ellis would not, or at all events did not, furnish diseas- ed rabbits though repeatedly re- quested to do so.
Mr. Coleman Phillips gave evi- dence before the Commission concerning the disappearance of rabbits from the South Wairarapa district of the North Island of New Zealand, and which he attributed to the ravages of the bladder
Professor Thomas, of New Zea- land, however, informed the Com-
mission that he considered the de- crease in, rabbits was due to mea- sures adopted by man, but cer- tain parasitic diseases—bladder worm, coccidia, rabbit mange itch, or scab, and rabbit louse—had ap- peared, and assisted in keeping down the rabbit population.
The Commission did not consid- er further inquiry regarding the bladder worm disease necessary.
In March, 1887, Professor Wat son, of Adelaide University, im- ported six rabbits from Germany suffering from rabbit scab, but, after experimenting, he was satis- fied that this disease would not be of any practical utility for de- stroying rabbits in the dry parts
Suggestions regarding other dis- eases were submitted to the Com- mission by 115 correspondents in all parts of the world, including Austria, South Africa, Fiji, Ireland, England, and the U.S.A., but in many instances diseases danger ous to man or domestic animals were recommended.
The Commission after examin ing 1456 claims, reported that the majority of the proposals were contributed by writers who plain- ly had no personal acquaintance with the conditions of the rabbit problem in the Australasian Colonies.
The Commission found that there did not appear to be one new principle suggested in all the vast mass of correspondence call- ed forth by the offer of a Govern- ment reward. Even the use of contagious disease had been tried some years previously.
Opposition was expressed by the Commission, to the principle of making rabbits a profitable article of commerce, which, it said, was universally condemned by prac- tical men interested in their de-
struction, except where land occupiers interested in rabbit de- struction entered into carefully defined arrangements for the es- tablishment of rabbit treatment factories.