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    The Rabbit Pest


    An account of Governor Phillip's voyage to Australia in 1787-88 says that five rabbits accompanied him, while in 1836 "the harmony of the little settlement [of Melbourne] was disturbed by a dispute between Henry Batman and John P. Fawkner in connection with the destruction of rabbits". In December 1859 the clipper Lightning sailed into Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, with a consignment of hares, partridges and 24 wild rabbits destined for Mr Thomas Austin of Barwon Park; it is believed that these were the ancestors of the pest which now overuns much of Australia.

    The Rabbit in South Australia

    Apparently, the first mention of the presence of rabbits in the colony was on 4 October 1840 when the vessel Governor Gawler, under the command of Captain Emanuel Underwood, arrived at Port Adelaide from Encounter Bay with '30 trusses of hay, a cask of oil, seven whalers' chests and 16 rabbits [their place of origin was not stated].' Later, on 15 January 1841, the Southern Australian had an advertisement of M. Evans, Launceston Hotel, Adelaide, 'For sale - 100 rabbits, bucks and does, young and old.'

    A few hares were liberated and acclimatised at the Reedbeds in 1862 and an editor of the local press opined:

    In the early history of the colony the domesticated rabbit was a rarity but, by 1864, they had increased to such an extent that complaints about all sorts of depredations in settlers' gardens were abroad. Samuel Tomkinson, in a letter to the Register in July 1871 told of the introduction of the rabbit into the ranges and issued a warning:

    As to the eradication of the pest a concerned citizen suggested that:

    In 1875 a Bill to provide for the suppression of the rabbit nuisance was introduced into the South Australian Parliament and, in 1887, both the Victorian and South Australian governments collaborated in building a rabbit proof fence extending for 290 miles. 'Cost and maintenance was considerable and the fence did not do what was expected of it. Gates were left open, and drift vegetation and sand made the netting useless.' To give some idea of the rabbit population, statistics show that in 1932 three quarters of a million carcases were exported to the United Kingdom from South Australia alone and in the same time 380,000 lbs of rabbit skins were sold at Adelaide skin sales. It took about seven or eight skins to make a pound, so the weight sold represented about 3,000,000 rabbits.

    In 1876 the first report of a provincial meeting concerned with the 'rabbit nuisance' was reported in the Adelaide press; this culminated in a deputation to the responsible Minister attended by representatives from the Hundreds of Julia Creek, Neales and English. On the Anlaby Estate from July 1875 until December 1876 139,680 scalps were paid for and 100 expended in digging out burrows.

    Following the enactment of the Vermin Destruction Act of 1879 official government parties were employed throughout the infested areas of the colony under the command of inspectors. The main method of eradication was the use of bisulphide of carbon which was pumped into warrens; traps, dogs and snares were also resorted to, together with arsenicised sandalwood leaves and phosphorised grain.

    During the period from September to April the eradication parties worked upon Crown and leasehold land from 5 to 11 am, rested until 3 pm and worked again from that hour until it was dark, excepting on Saturdays when the hours were from 5 am until 1 pm. By this arrangement the men were employed during the time that the rabbits came out to feed; from May 1 until August 31 the hours were 7 am until 5 pm. At the same time the inspectors in charge were instructed to induce local farmers to institute simultaneous action for the destruction of the rabbits and burrows existing upon their land. Later, the Jamestown Review of 30 October 1879 was pleased to report that in surrounding Hundreds - 'The rabbit nuisance is being rapidly abated... they cannot withstand the overpowering influence of the deadly bisulphide...'

    The News, 12 December 1932, p. 4e; Southern Australian, 10 October 1840, p. 2a, 15 January 1841 and 5 February 1841, pp. 2c and 2e (supp.), Register, 26 July 1871, p. 6b, 7 August 1871, p. 7b, 27 July 1876, p. 5b, 10 February 1877, p. 6c, 8 May 1924, p. 12g, 24 and 26 December 1925, pp. 9c and 12d, 27 January 1926, p. 15a, Observer, 4 September 1875, p. 9a, 28 October 1876, p. 6f.

    General Notes

    "Just arrived - 100 rabbits consisting of bucks and does, old and young, all for sale" is in an advertisement made by Mr Evans of the Launceston Hotel in the Southern Australian,
    15 January 1841, page 2c; also see
    February 1841, page 2e (supp.).

    An article on rabbits on Mr T. Austin's property at Barwon Park, Victoria is in the Express,
    5 October 1866, page 3d; also see
    29 July 1868, page 3f.

    "Our First Rabbits" is in the Observer,
    2 and 9 January 1926, pages 18a and 59c.

    "Rabbits in South Australia" is in the Observer,
    2 July 1864, page 1e (supp.).
    The introduction of rabbits into South Australia is discussed in the Register,
    8 May 1924, page 12g; also see
    24 and 26 December 1925, pages 9c and 12d,
    27 January 1926, page 15a; also see
    2 and 9 January 1926, pages 18a and 59c,
    6 February 1926, page 56b,
    14 August 1926, page 60a.

    "How the Rabbit Pest Spread Through Australia" is in The News,
    12 December 1932, page 4e.

    "Rabbits and the Rabbit Nuisance" is in the Observer,
    22 November 1873, page 9f; also see
    18 July 1874, page 9d.

    "Utilising Rabbits" is in the Express,
    6 and 15 April 1875, pages 3b and 2a,
    "The Rabbit Nuisance" is in the Observer,
    4 September 1875, page 9a,
    12 February 1876, page 4d,
    21 and 28 October 1876, pages 9a and 6f,
    4 November 1876, page 13d,
    31 October 1876, page 6d,
    10 February 1877, pages 4e and 6b; also see
    15 February 1877, page 7b,
    28 July 1877, page 4e,
    25 May 1878, page 6g,
    3 September 1878, page 6b,
    31 January 1881 (supp.), page 1g,
    9, 15 and 22 February 1881, pages 2c (supp.), 2a (supp.) and 1c (supp.).

    A poem entitled "The First Rabbits - Legend of Anlaby" is in the Observer,
    2 December 1876, page 14a;
    a cartoon is in The Lantern,
    6 October 1877.

    An editorial on the pest is in the Advertiser,
    22 June 1878, page 4f; also see
    8, 13 and 29 August 1878, pages 7a, 6e and 4e.

    A Rabbit Preserving Works near Julia Creek, "20 miles from Kapunda", is described in the Advertiser,
    9 July 1877, page 5f,
    1 September 1877, page 9f.
    Also see Place Names - Compton.

    . Taylor's rabbit exterminator is discussed in the Express,
    15 and 23 March 1880, pages 2b and 2c.

    "The Rabbit Bill" is in the Observer,
    6 July 1878, page 4f,
    3 August 1878, page 3c,
    "Destruction of Rabbits" on
    17 August 1878, page 9c.

    "Rabbit Parties in the South-East" is in the Advertiser,
    7 December 1882, page 5g; also see
    15 June 1886, page 6d,
    "Iguana v Rabbit" on
    17 February 1883, page 7a.
    Sketches are in the Pictorial Australian in
    November 1883, page 173,
    April 1884, pages 56-57,
    Frearson's Weekly,
    3 November 1883, page 569.

    An informative letter on the poisoning of the pest is in the Register,
    26 April 1881, page 7e; also see
    11 January 1884, pages 4f-6b,
    14 July 1885, page 4e,
    3 August 1885, page 4f,
    11, 17, 25 and 26 August 1885, pages 3f, 6f, 3h and 4d-6g,
    4, 9, 10 and 30 September 1885, pages 4e, 3h-4e, 4g and 4f,
    2 November 1885, page 6e,
    30 December 1885, page 7e.

    "The Regulations Under the Vermin Act" is in the Register,
    12 May 1883, page 2b (supp.),
    31 July 1883, page 5a.

    "The Rabbit Nuisance" is in the Chronicle,
    4 October 1884, page 13g.

    "Through a Vermin District" is in the Register,
    11 May 1885, page 5h,
    16 May 1885, page 9b,
    "Rabbits" in the Chronicle,
    4 July 1885, page 12e,
    "The Great Rabbit Plague" in the Observer,
    18 July 1885, page 9a,
    1 August 1885, page 9b.

    "Mongoose v Rabbits" is in the Register,
    15 December 1885, page 6e.

    A "useful" rabbit trap invented by E.L. Evens is described in the Register,
    3 March 1886, page 5b.

    "Destroying Rabbits by Inoculation" is in the Express,
    22 March 1886, page 4a.

    "Alleged Conspiracy Under the Vermin Act" is in the Register,
    24 July 1886, page 7f,
    14 and 16 August 1886, pages 5b and 3g.

    "Vermin Destruction" is in the Register,
    27 October 1886, pages 4f-6g.

    "Government Rabbit Parties" is in the Chronicle,
    30 October 1886, page 14a,
    6 November 1886, page 4e.

    Also see Advertiser,
    27 June 1885, page 4e,
    22 January 1886, page 6a,
    8 February 1886, page 6g,
    7 April 1886, page 6c,
    20 January 1886, page 4g,
    27 October 1886, page 4f,
    27 September 1887, pages 4h-7h,
    11 and 16 November 1887, pages 4g-5b and 6g,
    3 January 1888, page 7h,
    7, 13 and 18 February 1888, pages 7d, 4g and 4g,
    9 and 13 December 1889, pages 7h and 6a (letter from J. Beviss of Oakden Hills advocating using iguanas).

    "Rabbits v Man" is in the Advertiser,
    4 September 1885, page 4c; also see
    5 September 1885, page 5g,
    "The Rabbit Pest" on
    20 January 1887, page 6e; also see
    25 January 1888, page 7d,
    21 and 30 April 1888, pages 4f and 4e,
    17, 20 and 22 January 1890, pages 6e, 6b and 7f,
    5 and 11 February 1890, pages 6f and 7d,
    12 March 1890, page 7c,
    29 August 1890, page 5g,
    8, 20 and 23 September 1890, pages 6b, 7e and 5g,
    31 October 1890, page 3h.

    "The Price of Rabbit Skins" is in the Observer,
    24 July 1886, page 13a.

    Sharp's Rabbit Exterminator is discussed in the Observer,
    6 September 1890, page 9c,
    "Opening for a Profitable Industry" on
    18 October 1890, page 9c.

    Also see Register,
    24 September 1891, page 4g,
    4 June 1895, page 5d,
    30 March 1897, page 7g,
    5 May 1897, page 4g,
    7 February 1905, page 4f.

    A proposed rabbit-proof fence along the Victorian border is discussed in the Express,
    30 March 1886, page 3d,
    16 September 1886, page 2b,
    18 January 1887, page 2c,
    12 January 1888, page 2c,
    16 September 1886, page 4e,
    14 September 1888, page 7b,
    12 September 1889, page 5e,
    5 March 1890, page 4b.
    "The Border Rabbit-Proof Fence" is in the Register,
    12 April 1890, page 5a,
    "Vermin Fencing" on
    20 February 1892, page 4f.

    "Turning Rabbit Fur into Hats" is in the Advertiser,
    29 September 1887, page 6c.

    "Introduction of Wild Cats Advised" is in the Express,
    12 November 1887, page 2e.

    "A Novel Suggestion for its Eradication" is in the Advertiser,
    7 January 1889, page 5f,
    "Rough on Rabbits - Sharpe's Patent Annihilator" on
    17 January 1890, page 6a,
    6 and 27 February 1890, pages 3e and 4d.

    "Rabbits in the North-East" is in the Advertiser,
    30 October 1890, page 5g.
    The destruction of the pest at Warrow is traversed on
    7 June 1893, page 6e.

    "The Vermin Proof Fence" is in the Observer,
    10 and 17 October 1891, pages 25a and 25a,
    27 February 1892, page 9a,
    5 March 1892, page 11d,
    "Vermin-Proof Fence Construction" in the Register,
    13 May 1916, page 8h.

    "The Value of Rabbit Skins" is in the Observer,
    3 September 1892, page 28b.

    "The Vermin Destruction Commission" is in the Observer,
    22 July 1893, page 24e.

    "Rabbits as Food" is in the Register,
    9 September 1893, page 4h.

    "Vermin Destruction - A New Patent" is in the Express,
    12 October 1893, page 4a.

    "A New Rabbit Exterminator" is in the Register,
    4 June 1895, page 5d.

    The frozen rabbit trade is discussed in the Advertiser,
    25 April 1900, page 9b,
    "Riches - In Rabbits" in the Register on
    2 October 1905, page 6e.

    "The Rabbit Question" is in the Observer,
    10 December 1904, page 11a.

    "Rabbits in Adelaide" is in the Express,
    18 January 1905, page 4f.

    "Exterminating Rabbits by Infection" is in the Register,
    6 December 1905, page 6f,
    24 February 1906, page 10f,
    2, 4, 7, 8 and 20 June 1906, pages 10f, 6f, 5c, 6f and 7a,
    "The Rabbit Virus" in the Advertiser on
    29 November 1907, page 6e.

    Also see Register,
    19 February 1907, page 7a,
    18, 20 and 28 May 1907, pages 11d, 4g and 6b,
    13 June 1907, page 6b,
    1 December 1909, page 9g.

    One pastoralist was bent upon ridding his property of the pest and the Register of
    2 May 1884, page 7g has a report on the importation of 100 mongoose for the purpose.
    21 July 1860, page 3b for an account of their importation to SA and Register,
    2 May 1884, page 7g,
    28 August 1886, page 7g.

    A trip through a "Vermin District" is described in the Register,
    11 May 1885, page 5h.
    See Place Names - Colton for a comprehensive series of letters on the plague and:
    Place Names - Yednalue
    Place Names - Wonna
    Place Names - South-East - Miscellany
    Place Names - Orroroo.

    "Phosphorous as a Rabbit Poison" is discussed in the Advertiser,
    18 February 1902, page 6g.

    "A Plague of Rabbits" is in the Chronicle,
    10 December 1904, page 38e.

    "Riches - In Rabbits" is in the Register,
    2 October 1905, page 6e,
    23 December 1905, page 45a.

    "Exterminating Rabbits by Infection" is in the Register,
    6 December 1905, page 6f.

    "The Farmer and the Rabbits - Appeal Case from Petersburg" is in the Advertiser,
    14 January 1908, page 11a.

    Information on the rabbit pest is in the Register,
    29 November 1910, page 5e.

    A photograph of a rabbit trapper's camp on the banks of the River Murray is in the Observer,
    11 December 1915, page 10 (supp.),
    of a rabbit trapper's catch on
    14 June 1919, page 26.

    "Preserved Rabbits for the Navy" is in the Advertiser,
    3 March 1915, page 6e.

    "A Rabbit Mystery - The Man Who Saved the Continent" is in the Observer,
    29 September 1917, page 20e,
    6 October 1917, page 18c.

    "Rabbit Poisoning" is in the Register,
    13 February 1919, page 7e,
    15 February 1919, page 30e,
    "Gassing Rabbits - Trial at Grace Plains" in The Mail,
    14 June 1919, page 3e.

    "The Rabbit - Why the Pest Survives" is in the Register,
    18 April 1924, page 8.

    "Destructive Fumigator" is in The Mail,
    21 March 1925, page 1f,
    "Rabbit Trapping" on
    6 June 1925, page 2e,
    1 August 1925, page 1c.

    "Riches From Rabbits" is in The Mail,
    23 July 1927, page 13g,
    1 October 1927, page 29a.

    "Rabbit Fur - High Sounding Names" is in The News,
    4 February 1928, page 4e.

    "The Rabbit Here and There" is in the Observer,
    12 May 1928, page 39a.

    A proposal to import Angora rabbits is reported in the Register,
    27 September 1928, page 8e,
    2 October 1928, page 12b; also see
    The News,
    12 August 1930, page 8e.
    "Failure of Angora Rabbit Breeding" is in the Chronicle,
    21 February 1935, page 50.

    "Big Export of Rabbits" is in The News,
    11 May 1932, page 4f.

    "War on Rabbits" is in the Advertiser,
    16 November 1932, page 14e,
    "Fighting the Pest in the Early Days" on
    15 December 1932, page 17b.

    "When Rabbits Paid Better Than Wool" is in the Chronicle,
    17 August 1933, page 45.
    "Can Science Eliminate Rabbits" is in the Advertiser,
    23 January 1934, page 13d,
    "Rabbit Problem in Australia" in the Chronicle,
    19 September 1935, page 5.

    "Control of Rabbit Plagues" in the Advertiser,
    24 March 1936, page 7b,
    information on myxomatosis is in The Mail,
    20 June 1936, page 7g,
    "The Rabbit" in the Advertiser,
    13 May 1936, page 18d,
    "Rabbit Destruction" on
    13 and 18 July 1936, pages 14f and 19e,
    "The Rabbit Menace" on
    2 December 1936, page 28c,
    "Rabbit Control" on
    20 August 1937, page 24d. Also see
    The Mail,
    11 September 1937, page 39a for experiments on Wardang Island.

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