Native plants and animals

Rabbits have a severe effect on Australian native flora. Although they prefer to eat different types of grass, they will eat other plants including shrubs and small trees. They eat seedlings and kill small trees by stripping the bark off them - this is known as ringbarking. Although rabbits can survive without water, they still need to get moisture from other sources. They will dig down and eat roots of shrubs and trees, and even climb into small trees and shrubs to reach twigs and young leaves! In the arid areas of Australia, as few as 4 rabbits per hectare is enough to stop the regeneration of our native plants.

A photograph of the Bilby

Rabbits have a negative impact on native animals. They will take over the burrows of small marsupials like bilbies and burrowing bettongs, competing directly for food. Rabbits also support the growth of populations of predators such as foxes, raptors, dingoes and feral cats - these predators may then turn to native animals as a food source when rabbit numbers are low.

Largely due to rabbits, burrowing bettongs are extinct on the Australian mainland. Bilbies, also known as Dalgytes, were once found throughout the southern part of the continent but are now endangered and only survive in small numbers in central Australia.

Angus Forsyth recalls seeing bilbies in the Dongara area in the 1930s: "I remember vividly, with the bilby - we call them dalgyte - we used to catch them in the rabbit traps. We used to let them go...we used to see them quite often in those days. They've disappeared now. They would never survive in the wheat belt now, there is so little coverage."