Australia: Virus Gives ‘New Life’ to Endangered Species

An accidental discovery has indicated that a continuous rabbit management can allow small endangered species to have a comeback in the South Australian desert.

The research was published in the journal Conservative Biology, which discovered that bio-control strategies have posed a significant impact on rabbit management in the past half century. According to the Science Mag, in 1995, scientists released a deadly virus but unintentionally. It has, however, allowed certain endangered species to return to life. The researchers conducted studies on Wardang Island located off-coast of South Australia. They experimented with the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) when renegade flies took pathogen and transferred it to the mainland.

With the help of the virus, the region witnessed the eradication of 60 percent of Australia’s rabbits, which pushed the scientists to officially release the virus in 1996. With the use of the virus, the scientists saw positive impacts on the ecosystem. Although, no significant changes relating to new life creation were indicated after the release of the virus, native vegetation picked up a significant pace and the populations of herbivores like kangaroos started to increase.

However, recently, the scientists have observed traces of startling comeback of certain species. Biologists have observed mice hopping while passing through the desert at night, according to ecologist Reece Pedler at the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, South Australia. He said that the results were compelling.

“We found that three threatened mammals, the dusky hopping mouse, the plains mouse and the crest-tailed mulgara, had undergone huge changes in their distribution,” the ABC Rural quoted Pedler as saying. “Some of those species have increased their extent of occurrence by between 250 and 350 percent, so they have made massive increases in their range.”

Pedler said that the RHDV has been a single factor that led to the changing distribution and numbers of endangered species. He said that this way of changing the ecosystem balance is quite cheap and wide ranging. “We were able to separate out the time periods during the 45-year study period and to examine some of the really important things that might also explain these changes,” he added.

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