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Rabbit Proof Fence

Around the turn of the century, Australians realized they had a huge, huge problem. Rabbits that had been imported from Europe were breeding like, well, rabbits. The rabbits had few natural predators on the island continent and they were eating the settler’s crops as fast as they were planted.

Colonial officials recommended that a giant fence be built from one end of western Australia to the south. It was a revolutionary proposal that was eventually adopted by the government. Really what choice did they have?

Construction of the wire fence took close to seven years and involved gangs of men, teams of horses, mules, camels, carts, wagons and shovels and more elbow grease than you could shake a marsupial at.

By its completion, the fence was 3,000 km long in total. Once the fence was in place, the difficult task of maintaining the fence was handed over to several groups of men who had to spend months in the desert away from civilization.

Water was scarce and therefore the rabbit-proof fence had to inspected by men on camels, who need only a little bit of water to survive each day. However, a man could not give the fence a proper inspection form atop a camel so bicycles were used.

This too proved difficult as you imagine. Biking through the desert on rough terrain, with very little water is not an enviable job. Also the rough outback was prone to popping the tires of the bikes.

Eventually the cheap colonial officials sprung for a couple jeeps (nice guys eh). Of course these overheated and broke down, forcing them to be towed back by camels.

With wind erosion and the expert digging ability of the rabbits, the fence soon proved to be useless. The government officials gave up and were soon overrun by rabbits. Well, not really. They kept trying different methods, which included poison.

It is a testament to these rabbits and their Australian antagonists that the conflict still rages today.