Yesterday while Tom and I were out having beers with a few friends I learned something new and that something is that New Zealand is releasing a rabbit virus to kill off all the little pesky bunnies that are destroying agriculture, specifically in the Otago Province which is on the South Island. Like most mammals, rabbits are not native to New Zealand, they were introduced in the mid-1800s by British settlers for sport, food, and to remind them of home. And they multiplied like…well….bunnies. And now they’re a terrible menace to crops and cause an estimated $200 million (NZD) in lost agricultural production a year. In parts of Otago, the rabbit population is so huge they even go so far as to refer to it as a plague.
I know this is serious business, y’all, but I can’t help but give it the name of the Great Bunny Plague because it just makes me giggle.
I Googled, bunny plague in Otago, but I won’t post any of the pictures because they were pretty awful. Let’s just say it seems the people of New Zealand feel the same way about rabbits as they do about possums, “The only good rabbit is a dead rabbit.” I can’t say they don’t have good reason though….
Anyway, this virus is called RHDV1 K5 (rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus) that causes a fatal haemorrhagic disease in European rabbits. Despite how the name sounds, it doesn’t cause hemorrhaging or anything, it gives the the rabbits hepatitis which causes a rapid onset of organ failure and death within 48 hours. From what I’ve read, the bunnies will feel like they have a cold and then they croak. Supposedly, it’s the the most humane way they could find to deal with the Great Bunny Plague.
Almost every website I’ve read says that RHDV1 K5 has proven to ONLY affect rabbits, that humans and other animals can come into contact with it and not be infected. Predators have even eaten rabbits with the virus and not been infected. But while reading these articles the unspoken word that kept ringing through my head was YET. “This virus does not mutate…..yet.” “This virus does not kill humans….yet.” “This virus kills bunnies and does not turn them into ravenous man-eating zombie bunnies…..yet.”
I can’t stop thinking of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog….that cute little fluffy but murder-y bunny from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. What if this virus DOESN’T kill the rabbits but just really, really pisses them off and mutates them and we get a bunch of killer zombie rabbits? New Zealand could become full of these…….
Then, instead of the Great Bunny Plague, we’d have the Great Killer Bunny Plague which sounds way worse.
And then there’s those scientists who discovered a way to optimize a plastic-eating mutant enzyme which they feel will help to get rid of, or at least ease the recycling of, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) which is the plastic used for soft drink bottles. The enzyme, back in the day, was only able to digest the wax of of plant leaves but somehow evolved to be able to digest plastic. Scientists were studying how it evolved to be that way and oops! they unwittingly optimized it to be able to digest plastic 20% faster than before. So they want to figure out what exactly they did so they can do it again and make the plastic-eating mutant enzyme even MORE efficient which I believe will eventually lead it to evolve from eating plastics to eating humans.
And then there’s those Boston Dynamics robots. Everybody knows those guys are just waiting for the right time to make their move, take over the world, and enslave us all.
We are on a slippery slope my friends, a slippery slope.