A Kangaroo Island man has been convicted and fined $900 for bringing his pet rabbit to the island.
Kangaroo Island is currently rabbit free, and the movement, sale and ownership of rabbits on KI is prohibited under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (NRM Act).
Concerned community members first raised the alarm, informing the Department for Environment and Water in late 2017.
On investigation the man was found to have a female rabbit on his property; it was removed immediately and rehoused on the mainland.
Under the NRM Act, a penalty of up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $50,000 may be imposed for such an offence.
In February 2019, the man pleaded guilty for possession of a rabbit while being aware that possession of a rabbit on KI is prohibited.
He was sentenced at the Environment, Resources and Development Court in Adelaide on Thursday, March 21, receiving a $900 fine, $800 in court fees and a $160 victims of crime levy.
The man and his girlfriend were given the pet rabbit while living on the mainland but could bear to part with "Sally" the rabbit when returning to KI.
The judge accepted the man's assurances that the rabbit while on the Island lived inside a hutch inside his house and was not ever taken out of the house.
Judge Costello in his sentencing remarks said, "I have no doubt that he is truly contrite. His apology, amply illustrated in the message which he sent to one of the investigating officers, is manifest evidence of that fact.
"In regulatory offences matters of personal and general deterrence, particularly the latter, are factors of importance. In this respect, I was informed and accept that when these sentencing remarks are published the defendant can expect (perhaps not altogether unreasonably) to be the subject of considerable, community ire because, quite simply, the Kangaroo Island community prides itself on being unspoilt and free of certain feral animals."
While the matter was "very much towards the bottom of the scale in terms of the level of seriousness for offences of this nature", the offence remained objectively serious and he was not persuaded that good reason exists not to record a conviction. The maximum penalty is a fine of $50,000 or 12 months imprisonment.
Andrew Triggs, Biosecurity liaison officer at Natural Resources Kangaroo Island, said rabbits could have a devastating impact on both the island's native vegetation and agricultural industries.
"Rabbits could destroy agriculture on KI. Current estimates of the impact of rabbit populations on agriculture across Australia are in excess of $200 million a year," Mr Triggs said.
"Female rabbits are prolific breeders having a gestation period of only 31 days and having an average litter of 12 to 13 kittens.
"Feral rabbits eat crops and compete with livestock for pasture and are also a significant contributor to widespread soil erosion.
"KI is home to many endangered plant and animal species. Rabbits pose a significant threat to many native vegetation species and would compete with endangered animal species for food and habitat.
"The Threatened Species Recovery Hub recently released a new study showing that rabbits are Australia's worst invasive species impacting over 300 threatened species.
"Rabbits destroy plants and can stop them regenerating by eating the seedlings; they compete with native grazing animals for food and can boost the number of predators like cats."
Protecting Kangaroo Island's biosecurity is everyone's responsibility. You can report sightings of rabbits in-person at the Natural Resources Centre on Dauncey Street, Kingscote or by calling 8553 4444.
More information about KI's biosecurity can be found on the Natural Resources KI website at: www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/kangarooisland/plants-and-animals/Biosecurity