OVER the last few weeks visitors to Oxford Island have been expressing their concern to Craigavon Borough Council staff about the welfare of rabbits on the island. As a result Council would like to explain the situation to try and appease some of these concerns.
Rosemary Mulholland, Head of Conservation and Heritage explained; “Unfortunately there is an outbreak of Myxomatosis which is a severe viral disease that affects rabbits and it is decimating the population on the site. However, we hope the outbreak will decline shortly and expect that the rabbit numbers will gradually increase again. The virus is currently circulating across many areas of County Armagh at the moment and tends to flare up when the rabbit population reaches high levels. When numbers reduce, the virus will decline again and may not re-appear for several years.
“Sadly, when a rabbit is infected with this disease there is no treatment and only a proportion of the population normally survive. We are monitoring the situation and removing any dead animals on a regular basis – this will help to reduce the incidence of infection.”
Visitors to the island should note that this disease is not infectious to humans or to any other animal so it is completely safe to come and spend time at Oxford Island as usual.
“The good news is that the surviving rabbits will have a natural immunity to the virus and should weather any further infection,” added Rosemary. “We really appreciate people taking such a vested interest in the wildlife at Oxford Island and we would like to reassure everyone that the Reserve will continue to be managed in the interests of its wildlife.”