Bunny crosses protest calicivirus

BYE BYE BUNNY: A memorial site for beloved cartoon rabbits has been set up on the Anzac Drive and New Brighton Rd roundabout.

Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit, Thumper, Jack Rabbit and the Easter Bunny.

They are some of children’s most beloved bunnies and they now have a grave site at the Anzac Drive and New Brighton Rd roundabout.

A hike in the rabbit population in the red zone over the last year will see the calicivirus K5 released in Heathcote, Brooklands, Horseshoe Lake, Bexley and Avondale at the end of June.

On the McLean scale of one to eight, which measures rabbit density, biosecurity experts scored the areas four. That’s an increase since last spring, which has led to the virus’ release and someone putting up the memorials.

The New Zealand Transport Agency – which manages the roundabout – is aware of the crosses, said maintenance contract manager North Canterbury Barry Stratton.

“But [it] is not planning to remove them unless they cause safety issues with people not paying attention to their driving.”

Mr Stratton said the agency does not know who put the memorials up.

Land Information New Zealand Christchurch manager for land and property, Matt Bradley, said the K5 virus was the recommended option as it only affected European rabbits.

“We consulted with the New Zealand Veterinary Association before making the decision to release the virus. They have made sure veterinary clinics in Christchurch are aware so they can remind all owners of pet rabbits to take the appropriate steps to ensure their animals are vaccinated appropriately,” Mr Bradley said.

NZVA chief veterinary officer Helen Beattie said some pet rabbits in the area will have some immunity from previous vaccinations, but others will have no protection.

“Rabbits vaccinated against previously released strains of the calicivirus are likely to have some immunity but owners should be aware these animals require a booster vaccination every 12 months,” Dr Beattie said.

“Rabbits that have not been vaccinated will not be protected and owners should have these animals vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The vaccination can take up to 21 days to become effective. Calicivirus is spread by direct contact with other rabbits through insect vectors, such as flies and fleas, or by contact with contaminated objects.

It kills rabbits within 12 to 36 hours of infection.

LINZ is also monitoring the number of possums, rats, mice, stoats, weasels, ferrets and canada geese in the red zone.