A few weeks ago, it was our pleasant duty to inform our readers that acclimatisation was flourishing space at Barwon Park, especially referring to the successful hatching of broods of young pheasants. Since then, however, ill luck has attended them, and no less than eighty birds were carried off last week by an epidemic.Austin - that practitioner of noblesse oblige - expired in time to escape much of the condemnation as putative father of the rabbit plague and starling plague. His wife Elizabeth (1821-1910) made some amends as founder of the Austin Hospital for Incurables, later the Austin Hospital.
Thanks to the courtesy of Thomas Austin, Esq, the proprietor, whose gamekeeper has kept an accurate account of all rabbits killed during the past year, we learn that the total number picked up was 12,608, and many others, say over 500, were lost. The warren, to all appearances, is as full us ever. Some estimate may be formed of what a small beginning may do when we state that the first and only importation of rabbits made by Mr Austin was in December 1859, and the importation consisted of ten couples, one of which, much to the chagrin of the importer, died a day after landing. It is known that since that time over 50,000 have been caught and killed. The greatest number killed in one day last season was 222, and in looking over the book we find that many days averaged over 150.
The number of pheasants shot last year was 63. The hawks have much militated against the successful breeding of the pheasant, and as many as 1200 of these pests were shot during last year, and and as many as 130 were disposed of last month alone. It is believed that the hares are also prospering, over a dozen young ones having been seen romping about in the cool of the evening.
Before concluding this short narrative of the condition of the preserves at Barwon Park we must tender our thanks for the many pleasant days Mr Austin has given to sporting men, whom he is always glad to see. In fact he is, as he states, willing to give any gentleman a day's shooting so long as he does not bag to sell.
By 1872 a correspondent in the Adelaide Register (where only ten years earlier a writer had sniffed that "the shooting of one of them now and then" will be "a matter of trifling importance") wrote that a -
warning against rabbits should be attended to. I have carefully prevented for years any being turned loose at Mount Lofty, in consideration of the numerous market gardeners around its slopes; but a few weeks ago I saw some running about ... and am told that a distinguished summer neighbour of mine also let some go for future sport. If there is sport, depend upon it there will be no cabbages, carrots, turnips or celery.Three years later an Act to provide for the Suppression of the Rabbit Nuisance (38 and 39 Vic., 1875, No. 16) became law in South Australia, illustrating questions about identity mechanisms (persons with "written authority") and power.
That Act, provided among other things, that
It shall be lawful for any person authorized in writing in that behalf by the District Council of any district which has been duly constituted and declared a Rabbit district, after twenty four hours' notice shall have been given, to enter any land within such Rabbit District, or any land in the neighborhood thereof, not being another district, whether enclosed or not, at any reasonable hour in the daytime, for the purpose of ascertaining if any rabbits are thereupon, and no such person shall be deemed a trespasser by reason of such entry, or be liable for any damage thereby occasioned, unless the same shall be occasioned by such person wilfully, and without necessity: Provided that any person so authorized shall exhibit such written authority, if required to do so by the owner or occupier of such land, or his authorized agent, and if being so required he shall fail to exhibit such authority, then he shall be liable to be deemed and dealt with as a trespasser. ...Similar legislation was enacted in Victoria in 1878. In 1887 the colonies of Victoria and South Australia collaborated, unsuccessfully, in building a 'rabbit proof' fence that stretched for a mere 290 miles.
If any person shall wilfully obstruct, hinder, or interrupt person appointed by the Commissioner or any District Council, in the exercise of any power, or authority, vested in any such person by this Act; or shall threaten, assault, or use improper language to any such person whilst in the performance of his duty under this Act, every such person so offending shall, for every such offence, forfeit and pay a penalty not exceeding Twenty Pounds: Provided that no proceeding for the recovery of any such penalty, nor the payment thereof, shall be a bar to any action at law by any such person for or in respect of any such assault, but every such action may be commenced and proceeded with as if this Act had not been passed, bylaw or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.