The Adelaide Show Podcast putting South Australian passion on centre stage

197 – Those Wild Rabbits

Those Wild Rabbits with Bruce Munday on The Adelaide Show Podcast

This week, Steve and Michael hop along to Bruce Munday’s place to learn how “those wild rabbits” have thumped their way through Australia’s history. We hear about good intentions, cute furriness, very effective teeth and claws, the trail of damage to this land and its native species, and finally a turning of the tables as we begin to win. Bruce’s book, Those Wild Rabbits, is out now through Wakefield Press.

This week, the SA Drink Of The Week is from Coriole Wines

Michael will try to stump us, virtually, with IS IT NEWS on the topic of rabbits.

In 100 Weeks Ago we hear from Samela Harris, lover of penguins and many native animals.

And in the musical pilgrimage … our musical curator has dusted off a fantastic song we played a few years ago because it was the most perfect song for tonight; house rabbit blues.

Suggested Tweet text: Laugh, cry & learn about Those Wild #Rabbits in #Australia. Meet @WakefiedPress #author Bruce Munday #AgChatOz

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Running Sheet: Those Wild Rabbits

00:00:00 Outtake
Rabbits live in dry stone walls
Theme and Introduction. Our original theme song in full is here, Adelaidey-hoo.
00:02:29 SA Drink Of The Week
2012 Coriole Sangiovese Shiraz … tasting notes coming Sunday
00:07:09 Stories Without Notice
Listener survey underway. Go to
00:07:47 Bruce Munday

Bruce Munday is one of Australia’s revered voices in the Landcare movement. Having worked the land but also having inspired bands of volunteers to learn more about caring for the soil, he has become known as a man who can dive deeply into important historical subjects so that unlike the African proverb, when he finally dies, a large library will not burn with him. He has a fascinating book about dry stone fences already in circulation but tonight we are talking about his latest book, Those Wild Rabbits, all about the history of Australia’s love affair with and battle against this furry pest.

I liked David Williamson’s comments in your book in which he sums up our story about rabbits in Australia the longest war in human history in which we’ve fought desperate battles, usually on the wrong battlefields with the wrong weapons. Is that a fair summary?

I like one of your first reflections in the book, about Europeans bringing what they knew – rabbits, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, cats, and dogs, all of which have gone feral in this land, when you say, in 1788 “the concept of biosecurity – protection against invasion by alien species – was more than a mystery, it simply didn’t exist.”

You mention these items were memories of home. And yet, today, we encourage migrants to not only mix and integrate but also to bring their best. If we had this time over again, would there be some items or customs from the old country worthy and safe to introduce?

The rabbit was considered an innocent animal providing food. But you describe it as an evil villain here: rabbits have bad habits wherever they are found. Sharp chisel-like teeth enable grazing close to the ground often to the detriment of grasses and herbs; not content with that they will also browse bark and leaves from shrubs and tree seedlings. Sharp nails make for efficient burrowing, often causing soil erosion and undermining, and when desperate they eat roots and climb trees for foliage. Add to this a high level of fertility and fecundity and you have
an animal with the potential to take over vast tracts of land, limited only by the pressure from predators, famine or disease.

Tell us about Thomas Austin and Barwon Park.

Why was 1859 a turning point?

Tell us about South Australia’s involvement. We note that it was the fear of shipwreck that started a practice of leaving rabbits on islands, including those around Port LIncoln, as a food source. Beyond the shores the ever-present danger of shipwreck encouraged

A fortunate exception to the rabbit colonisation of islands was Kangaroo Island. It didn’t dodge feral animals altogether, but it dodged rabbits? Notwithstanding feral pigs, peacocks, turkeys, deer and
The first recorded presence of rabbits in South Australia was on the manifest of the Governor Gawler, which arrived at Port Adelaide in 1840 with ‘30 trusses of hay, a cask of oil, seven whalers’ chests and 16 rabbits’.
Then , a few months later the Southern Australian advertised ‘100 rabbits, bucks and does, young and old’.
And you had a story involving Captain Sturt involving a Mitcham resident out at the beach at Grange.

A female can produce 38 surviving young in a breeding season, resulting in a still-formidable 15,000 rabbits after three years

Are farmers too complacent today? There is mention of a plague before myxomatosis arrived in the 50s

How have we fought back with science? Wasn’t there a new attack in the war recently?

If we are too good with RHDV, it will kill its host (the rabbit) before it can mutate into different strains.

There is conflict in the outback where rabbits have replaced native prey. What is the status of that balance at the moment?

HOPE. At Tungkillo, there is a patch of turf where the war is being won. Tell us about its consequences.

Bilby vs Bunny, who should win the beauty contest, especially in the context of Stephanie Pappas’ quest to get imput on what is the cutest creature (seven essential ingredients of cuteness, in order: big eyes, youth, tininess, fur, mammal, smiling and domestication).

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground
Old African proverb

Can you tell us what the key is to dry stone fences staying put AND where we might see some in South Australia?

01:24:12 Is It News?

Michael challenges the panel to pick the fake story from three stories from South Australia’s past.

Naracoorte Herald, Tuesday 17 April 1883
Rabbit Destruction by Electricity.
I have given this subject serious consideration, and have come to the conclusion that a most effective means of destroying these vermin would be by the agency of electricity. My plan is to divide the infected portion of country into districts, each district to be in charge of a capable electrician and sufficient staff of assistants, who would be provided with a powerful battery and sufficiency of wire to form an enclosure fence for a circuit of from six to nine miles. It would then be a comparatively easy matter to drive what vermin were enclosed to the electric fence, contact with which would instantly kill them; when the circuit would be removad to another section of the district and the operation repeated, and so on until the whole of the districts had be carefully gone over. No doubt this would be a very expensive operation, but no expense should be spared to accomplish the annihilation of the vermin.
I am, sir,
Your very respectful servant,
(Signed) J. G. SCOTT. Quebec, 12th January.

South Australian Register, Wednesday 14 March 1885
To the editor
It has been estimated that native cats destroy about two thousand pounds worth of lambs and poultry in Victoria yearly. Eaglehawks and gledes as much, and wild dogs more than either. When rabbits were introduced, they were doing evil with a good intention. Something must be done to protect our farmers. Professor Watson proposes to introduce German rabbits infected with the parasite “sarcoptes cuniculi” in order to destroy existing rabbits but we must wait for the report of the Legislative council select committee before considering this remedy. It seems that pests and weeds grow best both in and out of parliaments.

Evening Journal, Tuesday 22 November 1887
Sir—May I plead one small mite on behalf of bunny? It is not long back the animal was introduced, and has certainly become a sad evil, but in the face of our Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals it is dreadfully rough to learn the philosophers have made an attempt to introduce the rabbit scab. It is utterly inconsistent and beyond the ” ken” of a civilized community, and I really hope some better remedy can be found than the slow process of torture so graphically described by Dr. Paterson in his report. I am. Sir. &c..

01:38:37 100 Weeks Ago
In 100 Weeks Ago we hear from journalism stalwart, Samela Harris. who has had a lifetime love affair with pelicans. In this snippet, she talks about her enchantment that she now shares with partner in a property near Victor Harbor.
01:46:53 Musical Pilgrimage
And our song this week is House Rabbit Blues by Ben Searcy, selected by our musical curator Dan Drummond.
02:00:32 Outtake
Michael is hard to look at … I listened to your podcast … my wife won’t be a pest … it will get worse, Steve

Here is this week’s preview video:

SFX: Throughout the podcast we use free sfx from for the harp, the visa stamp, the silent movie music, the stylus, the radio signal sfx, the wine pouring and cork pulling sfx, and the swooshes around Siri.



2 Responses

  1. Chatting with Steve and Michael was heaps of fun. Hope that comes through in the podcast. Great to ‘work’ with people who are so positive about Adelaide.

    1. And, likewise, Bruce. Your deep-rooted interest in our country and its people, is noteworthy. We could have talked all night! Steve

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