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The first European to explore Australia was
1) from Holland.
2) Captain James Cook.
3) a run-away criminal.
Interviewer [female]: What comes to mind, listeners, when you think of rabbits? Is it the Easter bunny? Or Bugs Bunny? Or maybe you think of cute, furry little creatures with long ears and funny teeth? Rabbits are popular pets in many coun-tries, but in one they are really dangerous. Here to tell us about these rabbits is Si-mon Hurn, a research scientist. So, Simon, it's almost too silly to be true. Are there really vicious rabbits somewhere in the world?
Simon [male; Australian accent if possible]: [laughing] … Well, not in the way you might be thinking. They're not bloodthirsty monsters that physically attack an-yone, but they are responsible for major economic and environmental effects in Australia.
Interviewer: How is that possible? They look so innocent!
Simon: Well, let's start at the beginning, shall we, with the history of Europeans in Australia, and then we'll move on to discuss the arrival of the rabbits there. Now, in the 17th century, a number of European explorers sailed the coast of Australia, which was then known as New Holland.
Interviewer: New Holland? Really? I had no idea! I suppose the obvious question is 'Why?'
Simon: Ah yes, that's because the first European to explore the land was Willem Janszoon, a Dutchman. Not surprisingly, he named it after his own homeland. The explorers who followed were from Spain, England, France, Sweden and many more from Holland. But they didn't stay there to colonise the land. It wasn’t until 1770 that Captain James Cook claimed it for Britain. Eight years later, the British began sending their criminals there for punishment. The first group arrived in Syd-ney on 26 January 1788. It consisted of 11 ships carrying 1,500 people and their supplies, including European rabbits.
Now, these rabbits were not wild and did not spread to other areas. They were probably kept in cages – for food. But in 1859, 24 wild rabbits were released by a farmer in Australia's south for hunting. He had no idea what that would eventually lead to. Forty years later, the rabbits had spread to the rest of the country, except for the wet tropical forest areas in the north, and had become a major pest and a huge problem.
Interviewer: But Australia is massive! Surely the rabbits couldn't cover such a large area.
Simon: Oh, but they can. Rabbits increase their populations very quickly indeed. Did you know that one female rabbit can produce 30 to 40 young a year?
Interviewer: Oh my goodness! There would be billions of rabbits in no time at all.
Simon: Yes, that's exactly what happened. And as their numbers increased, they began competing for food and so they had to move to other areas in order to eat. Those billions of wild rabbits caused a lot of economic damage as they crossed the land. They destroyed farmland for crops such as wheat and cotton, and grazing ar-eas for sheep and cows. As I'm sure you know, Australia's biggest exports are wheat, beef and wool, so the rabbits have had a major impact on the economy.
Interviewer: And the environmental damage?
Simon: That's equally bad. Rabbits destroy the land by creating underground tun-nels known as burrows, and by eating plants. They can completely stop plants from regrowing. Because of this, many plant species have become extinct. Rabbits even compete with cows and sheep for grass.
Interviewer: I imagine Australia has tried to control the problem.
Simon: Oh yes. One of the earliest methods was to build long fences to keep the rabbits away, but that didn't work. Since then, scientists have resorted to other measures … (fade)
... the first European to explore the land was Willem Janszoon, a Dutchman. Not surprisingly, he named it after his own homeland.