Rabbit timeline

The colony of NSW is founded and rabbits arrive with Europeans from England. The rabbits do not seem to be a problem.

Rabbits reported on Carnac Island (off Fremantle,Western Australia). These rabbits were left as a permanent food supply by whaling ships working the west and south coast of Australia.

Thomas Austin of Barwon Park near Geelong in the colony of Victoria imports 24 rabbits for sport.

1865- 1866
Over this two-year period, Thomas Austin reports he and his guests have killed at least 34,000 rabbits in sport. Austin and adjacent landowners enjoy the sport of rabbit hunting so much they ask for legislation to protect rabbits.

Rabbits are in plague proportions in the eastern states, eating out pasture. Landowners petition to make destruction of rabbits compulsory.

In NSW from January to August it is estimated that 10 million rabbits are killed.

Rabbits are reported to have spread from the eastern states to the town of Eucla, WA.

Arthur Gregory Mason is instructed by the WA Under Secretary for Lands to lead an expedition to check on rabbit incursion into WA.
Mason reports that rabbits have crossed from South Australia and are 200 miles (330km) inside WA. He suggests building a rabbit proof fence.

Following a Royal Commission, the WA Parliament decides to build a rabbit proof fence. Surveyor AW Canning surveys the fence line from Starvation Boat Harbour on the south coast (70 miles west of Esperance) to 80 Mile Beach at Wallal.
Work begins on the No. 1 Fence in December.

Rabbits are past Fence No 1 and threaten the fertile Avon Valley. A second fence is built from Point Ann on the south coast through Cunderdin, Yalgoo and connects to Fence No 1 at Gum Creek.

Both fences are completed. Barrier Fence No. 1 is 1,139 miles (1,898 km) long. Barrier Fence No. 2 is 724 miles (1,206 km) long.
A third fence is also built between Yalgoo and the west coast, 20 miles (32km) south of Kalbarri.

Alex Crawford is appointed Chief Inspector of Rabbits. He is assisted by work parties, but is personally responsible to inspect 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of fence each year.

A motor buggy is purchased to use for the fence inspections. Horses have proved difficult to use because of water requirements, bicycles have failed because of rough conditions and punctures. The motor buggy also fails because of punctures and broken springs.
The final solution is to use a buckboard buggy pulled by a pair of camels.

Over the next 8 years, rabbits move further west - past open gates in the fence, under the wire where soil had been eroded away and through holes torn in the wire netting.

Rabbits have become a severe problem in WA - eating pasture, crops and ring-barking trees. People try everything to destroy rabbits; wire netting around individual farms, poison baits, poison gases such as cyanide, carbon bisulphate and monoxide chemicals, metal traps and deep ripping of rabbit warrens (holes).

1935- 1937
Rabbits are in plague proportions. Rabbit skins increase in commercial value and the fur is used to make felt for hats.

The contagious disease 'myxomatosis' is released. The disease only affects rabbits and is transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease kills millions of rabbits and halts the rabbit explosion.

A new poison - '1080' (ten eighty) is introduced. 1080 is relatively harmless to native animals and it adds to the effect of myxamotosis. Eradication of rabbits looks possible.

The European rabbit flea is released as an alternative carrier of myxomatosis, due to low numbers of mosquitoes in WA and Tasmania.

Rabbits still thrive. A new highly infectious disease - 'rabbit calicivirus disease' is released at Cranbrook WA on 18 October.

Although combined use of myxomatosis, 1080 poison and rabbit calicivirus disease seems to be effective in keeping rabbit numbers down, rabbits still cost Australian farmers more than $600 million every year. Research continues into other methods such as fertility control agents.