Future controls

Vertebrate Pest Research Services (VPRS) is always undertaking further research into control methods for pest species. In 1992, a cooperative research center was set up involving Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Conservation and Land Managment (CALM), the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Australian National University. The goal of this group is to develop target specific anti-fertility agents for rabbits, foxes and house mice.

Dr Twigg explains: "One of the advantages of doing this is that all our existing techniques work on increasing mortality or death rate, and that means you have to do them every year or every second year. The advantage with fertility control is that the pest numbers never build up in the first place!"

A fertility control agent is a very difficult thing to achieve, particularly because it has to be target specific, which means it only affects the pest animal and has no other undesired impact on any other species. Even when it is ready for use, it will not completely replace other control methods. As Dr Twigg explains: "We need a range of control techniques to reduce the impact of vertebrate pests, particularly something like the rabbit. So we see fertility control being an important part of being integrated with our current control strategies. And what it will enable us to do is reduce the amount of poisons we need to use, and how often we need to use them. Ultimately, we will need to destroy fewer pests."