Aussie rabbits wreak havoc in Spanish vineyards

Australian rabbits are the last thing you’d expect to be discussing in the vineyards of Cariñena, but William Long has learnt to expect the unexpected on his travels around Spain.

In a recent visit to the vineyards of Ignacio Marín, our supplier in Cariñena, he noted that the bush vines were bare of buds. But this is not due to the delays caused by a cool spring. Instead, the vines have budded but the shoots have been eaten by rabbits. Not just any rabbits, Australian rabbits.

You would have thought that humans would have learnt by now the problems that can be caused by introducing foreign species, but due to native rabbits being killed off by diseases such as myxomatosis, introduced to Europe in the 1950s, hunters have long complained about the lack of this once widespread prey in certain rural areas.

Rabbits were also prey for the native Iberian lynx – a wild cat that was once prevalent across Spain, but now barely numbers 500, making it in severe risk of extinction. In order to increase its possibilities of survival, Australian rabbits that are immune to the myxomatosis virus that survives in the soil and vegetation across Spain, were introduced. We’re sure that the hunters are delighted about the rabbits that now abound across the fields of Aragon, but farmers and grape-growers are not so keen.

Yet another reminder of the importance of thinking long term before carrying out any actions that could affect the natural balance of the countryside.