New pest rabbit virus now available as commercial product

Rabbit in field
RHDV1 K5 is now available as a commercial product to authorised users.

With springtime upon us, it is time to consider taking part in the release of the newly introduced RHDV1 K5 rabbit biocontrol virus.

RHDV1 K5 is a Korean strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, which was nationally released for the first time in March.

This was the first time in 20 years that a new rabbit biocontrol agent had been released into Australia. 

More than 600 release sites were selected nationally with the virus released at 110 sites in Western Australia.

RHDV1 K5 is now available as a commercial product to authorised users.

Late spring, from October to mid-November provides ideal conditions for release of the virus as this is when there is a low proportion of very young rabbits present and there are enough flies and mosquitos around to help spread the virus.

Under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 online training must be completed to become an authorised user of RHDV1 K5.

Authorisation training is available from the Department of Primary industries and Regional Development Client Online Training website.

Your certificate of completion will be your evidence of being an authorised user of RHDV1 K5. 

If you had previously successfully completed the online training as part of the initial release, you do not need to repeat the training.

The department recommends that land managers contact their local biosecurity group before applying for the virus to ensure releases are coordinated or to determine if a release has already occurred within their area.

Coordinated, landscape scale release of rabbit biological control viruses will maximise effectiveness and produce greater results than patchy, individual landholder releases. 

Biosecurity group contact details are available within the online RHDV1 K5 training package. 

The training package also provide details on how to purchase the virus, and how to store the virus once received.

Virus release results

Nationally, preliminary analysis based on pre and post rabbit counts from 52 release sites showed a 42 per cent average reduction in wild rabbit numbers at sites where RHDV1 K5 was released.

Over winter the RHD Boost team have continued to crunch the numbers.

Once data collection has been finalised, they will undertake population modelling and then build climate factors into the analysis. 

Each site that submitted data will be provided with a breakdown of what happened at their site and the factors that may be involved in that result. 

Your help is needed in reporting dead rabbits

RHDV activity is expected to increase in the coming months and the RHD Boost research team encourages landholders to report any rabbit sightings or signs of disease, and submit samples from dead rabbits.

Reports can be provided online via the RabbitScan website or the RabbitScan smartphone app – available via iTunes and GooglePlay.

The website also provides information on how to submit samples from dead rabbits.

The RabbitScan website has a link to the online Rabbit Biocontrol Tracker where you can record ‘potential disease’ sightings, and view both possible and confirmed reports of all strains of RHDV.

The RHD Boost team has provided a series of helpful videos:

For any questions or technical support regarding these processes please contact Emma Sawyers on +61 (0)2 6391 3834 or

Reminder for owners of pet domestic rabbits

RHDV1 K5 is highly contagious and be spread by flies and biting insects, and direct rabbit to rabbit contact. 

Predators feeding on infected rabbit carcasses may excrete viable virus in their faeces.

The virus can also remain in the environment for an extended period and can be transmitted on objects including clothing, fodder and bedding material.

Based on scientific evidence to date, the existing RHDV1 vaccine (known as Cylap®) is effective against RHDV1 K5.

If unvaccinated, rabbit owners should talk to their local veterinarian about vaccination. 

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) website provides more information on RHDV protection and prevention.

For more information contact Henry Brockman, Invasive Species Officer, Albany on +61 (0)8 9892 8435.