Nature conservation

Threatened species

Competition and grazing by the feral European Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.) - profile

Scientific name: Competition and grazing by the feral European Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.)
Conservation status in NSW: Key Threatening Process
Commonwealth status: Key Threatening Process
Gazetted date: 10 May 2002
Profile last updated: 19 Aug 2017


Competition and grazing by the feral European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.) was listed as a KEY THREATENING PROCESS on Schedule 3 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 [10 May 2001].

Rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, have spread over most of the southern two thirds of Australia and now occupy approximately 4.5 million km2 (Myers et al. 1989).

Grazing and burrowing by rabbits can cause massive erosion problems, reduce recruitment and survival of native plants, and alter entire landscapes.  Rabbits also threaten the survival of a number of native animal species by altering habitat, reducing native food sources, displacing small animals from burrows and attracting introduced predators such as foxes.  In addition, rabbits may have significant impacts on Aboriginal and historic cultural heritage. For example, overgrazing by rabbits has exacerbated soil erosion in Mungo and Kinchega national parks, exposing culturally significant sites such as Aboriginal burial grounds.

Threatened species that suffer in dietary competition with rabbits include the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Dawson & Ellis 1979, 1984; St John 1989; Short & Milkovits 1990). The Plains Wanderer and Malleefowl are adversely affected by rabbits through competition for food and/or by alteration and reduction of suitable habitat (Baker-Gabb 1990; Garnett 1992).

Grazing by rabbits has reduced the survival and recruitment of several species of threatened plants. These include Acacia carneorum, Grevillea kennedyana, Cynanchum elegans, Thesium australe and Lepidium hyssopifolium (Cropper 1987; Auld 1990, 1993; Griffith 1992; Matthes & Nash 1993). Grazing by rabbits has marked effects on the structure and composition of the Acacia loderi Endangered Ecological Community.

Competition and land degradation by feral Rabbits is listed as a key threatening process under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and a national threat abatement plan has been prepared by the Department of Environment and Heritage.


Recovery strategies

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region