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Easter bunny hunt count due

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/04/2017

Each Easter hundreds of hunters kill pest rabbits for 24 hours. © AP Images Each Easter hundreds of hunters kill pest rabbits for 24 hours. The count of dead rabbits in the annual Great Easter Bunny Hunt is due.

Each Easter hundreds of hunters who have headed out to farms on Friday to kill pest rabbits for 24 hours assemble in Pioneer Park in Alexandra at lunchtime on Saturday for the count and prize-giving.

In 2016 a team called Down South took top honours for a second consecutive year with a kill of 889 rabbits. In total 10,011 rabbits were killed by 328 hunters last year.

Hunters travel from around New Zealand for the event organised by the Alexandra Lions Club.

Team numbers are down slightly this year as fewer blocks of land hunters are allocated to via a ballot are available.

Ahead of the event animals rights group PETA dubbed it an annual slaughter.

"The Easter bunny hunt is nothing short of a massacre," says Ashley Fruno, the group's associate director of campaigns.

By perpetuating "this cruel and ineffective killing cycle" each Easter, the Central Otago region will only exacerbate its environmental problems, she says.

Lethal control doesn't provide a long-term solution to invasive animal populations and can backfire, as it creates a spike in the food supply and prompts accelerated breeding.

Rabbits were introduced to New Zealand by settlers from the 1830s and bred rapidly. Rabbit plagues have damaged farmland in many parts of the South Island and extensive measures are taken to control them by regional councils and farmers.

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