With their outsized ears and fluffy fur, rabbits are often seen as cute and harmless. Yet the creature is behind one of the globe's most harmful biological invasions, ravaging Australia, whose efforts to limit the problem have tended only to make things worse.
Back in 1859, a mere 24 European breeding rabbits disembarked from England, brought over by Thomas Austin, who enjoyed hunting parties on his Victoria estate.
But 150 years on, some 200 million rabbit colonizers now roam Australia, according to a 2022 study by PNAS, a peer reviewed journal of the US National Academy of Sciences. They devour vegetation as they go, laying waste to native plant species, causing habitat degradation and threatening the survival of numerous native species.
With as many as seven annual litters — each with an average of five offspring who reach sexual maturity from the age of 3-4 months — the rabbit is able to spread its presence very quickly.
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