Werribee's Open Range Zoo, in Melbourne's west, is dealing with the unwanted animal taking over its park and eating feed meant for the star attractions, the giraffes, zebras and rhinoceros.

The general manager of life sciences at the zoo, Russel Traher, said on Wednesday that Melbourne's weather conditions had created a perfect storm for an infestation of rabbits, and park officials were struggling to fully rabbit-proof the 225-hectare site.

"It's spring and the sun is shining, the grass is growing, the birds are singing, and the rabbits are breeding like rabbits," Traher told the Melbourne radio.

"They are one of those boom and bust species, which means that when the conditions are right the population can increase really quickly."Rabbits are an introduced species in Australia, brought over by European settlers in the 19th century as a readily available source of meat and for hunting purposes.

Melbourne is expected to reach temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius at the weekend, which will not help the zoo's cause. Traher said the rabbits had been feasting on feed, such as pellets and hay, meant for the wildlife at the zoo.

Staff will now implement a controlled, humane cull on the pesky rabbits.  The difficult part of the programme will be finding a way to ensure the park's carnivores do not cross paths with the fluffy critters, said Traher.



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