Beware of the rabbit disease

There are concerns that the rabbit disease, which was discovered in the Karoo region, will spread to other provinces.

Although there are few farmers who raise rabbits among new farmers, their number is growing. Rabbit disease has returned to the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and it is expected to spread to other provinces as usual.

According to a report from the Department’s animal control officers, rabbit disease has recently been detected in the Karoo region. An autopsy report on rabbits discovered dead in the wild with Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RDH).

Raising rabbits is one of the new ways farmers are increasing their breeding activity while also helping to keep these animals safe. Reggie Ngcobo, speaking on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, says the disease is caused by wild infection.

“There is a virus that infects rabbits in the wild, and this type of virus is the first to be discovered in South Africa,” Ngcobo explained.

According to Ngcobo, the symptoms that appear when a rabbit is exposed to this disease are clear as a result of expert research. “A rabbit infected with this disease has blood in the liver and kidneys, so the rabbit dies quickly,” Ngcobo explained.

He says they are still probing how the disease got into South Africa, and the investigation is ongoing. “Even though it is illegal to export rabbits to other countries, we are still investigating how this disease got into South Africa,” Ngcobo said.

Rabbit meat and fur are the most popular products sold by farmers who raise these animals. According to reports, rabbit meat is high in nutrients such as protein and aids in the treatment of high blood pressure.

In comparison to other common meats, it is estimated that 20% of the people in this country buy and consume rabbit meat. Pertunia Sethumo is a Black rabbit farmer in Gauteng who knows everything there is to know about raising rabbits.

“In South Africa, consumers know little about rabbit meat, which is why only a few people buy it; rabbit meat is available in specialized stores and those that sell wild animal meat,” Sethumo explained.

It takes three months for a rabbit to mature before it is slaughtered and sold or its fur is sold. “When the rabbit is fully grown and weighs three and a half kilograms, it is suitable for sale or its fur,” Sethumo explained.

Farmers who are just starting out are struggling to find ways to raise rabbits due to a lack of knowledge.

“The only way to prevent this disease is to vaccinate farmers’ rabbits,” said Ngcobo. “However, we currently do not have a vaccine to vaccinate rabbits in South Africa.”

The government is warning rabbit farmers to protect their rabbits by not allowing them to go outside and coming into contact with the dying rabbits.

“The droppings of rabbits that have died from this disease can be a quick way to spread the disease to other areas,” Ngcobo explained. “Farmers are advised to notify the nearest officials when they come into contact with the droppings of a dead rabbit.”

However, the general public is advised not to approach a dead rabbit and instead to contact their local animal health officials.