Arriving from England, you became a pioneer settler.
You built a mansion in Barwon Park, Winchelsea. You joined the Acclimatisation Society, dedicated to studying local plants and animals, introducing any felt to be lacking.
In 1859 you wrote to your nephew William in England, asking him to send twenty four grey rabbits, five hares, seventy two partridges and some sparrows. You explained, ‘the introduction of just a few could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition a little spot of hunting’.
William couldn’t find enough grey rabbits so he added some domesticated creatures into the shipment. The two types created a new breed which was exceptionally hardy and virile.
Your contemporaries praised you for the sport you provided.
No-one could have foreseen that within a decade there would be so many rabbits that two million could be culled without noticeable effect; that by the 1950s there would be six hundred million, causing untold damage to crops as well as to the local ecology. That their destruction of native plants would leave the topsoil exposed, creating deep gullies across the landscape.
In spite of attempts to control their numbers through trapping, poisoning and the introduction of specially-created diseases, your rabbits, Thomas Austin, continue to multiply.
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