Thomas Austin just wanted a taste of what life was like back in England when he released 24 wild rabbits, sent to him by his nephew, on his property near Winchelsea, Victoria, in 1859. He wanted to hunt them, but the furry little animals adapted surprisingly well to the climate in Australia. Ten years later there were an estimated 2 million rabbits in Australia -- the fastest spread of any mammal anywhere in the world. Today, rabbits are banned in the Australian state of Queensland because of the toll they’ve taken on the environment.
There may be more than 400 million wild rabbits in Australia, and their effect on the ecology has been estimated at $1 billion AUD a year. Rabbits often kill young trees in orchards and forests, and they have been blamed for serious erosion problems.
Hand over the bunny, mate:
- No one can keep rabbits as pets in Queensland, even if the animals have been neutered. The only exceptions are for entertainment purposes (such as magic shows), or for scientific research.
- Queensland is serious about the ban. If found with a rabbit, you could be fined as much as $44,000 AUD and sentenced to six months in prison.
- Warning signs can be seen along main roads leading into Queensland. Rabbits must be surrendered so they can be humanely destroyed.