The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting.

Thus spoke Mr Thomas Austin, an English immigrant to Australia, on releasing 24 breeding rabbits into the countryside surrounding his property in October 1859. Well, little did he know what was about to happen. By 1869, killing two million a year had no noticeable effect on the rabbit population. To this day, in Australia, rabbits are public enemy Number One. They are responsible for extensive plant species loss, erosion, not to mention millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops every year.1

Fortunately, in South Africa, we don’t have that problem. But we have plenty of other pests, which is why we have the Agricultural Pests Act 1983. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

A. Importation

  1. It is an offence to import any plant, pathogen, insect, exotic animal, growth medium, infectious thing, honey, beeswax or used apiary equipment without a permit.2

  2. It is an offence to be in possession of those things and not be able to give a satisfactory explanation.3

  3. Such things may only be imported through a prescribed port of entry, and it is an offence to contravene this provision.4

B. Reporting and documents

  1. Immediately locusts, voetgangers or red-billed quelea appear on land, or deposit eggs, or are present, a user of the land must notify the nearest office of the Department of Agriculture and give as accurately as possible a description of the whereabouts. It is a crime not to do this.5
  2. It is a crime to disclose to another person any information acquired in the exercise of powers or performance of duties under the Act (except in certain circumstances).6

  3. It is an offence not to supply information, produce a document or give an explanation to a person authorised to ask therefor, or to supply false information.7

C. Control measures

  1. It is a crime not to comply with a control measure directed by an officer of the Department of Agriculture.8

  2. It is also a crime to hinder any officer in his duties, or to fail to assist any person authorised by the Minister to do any act in connection with or upon land.9

  3. It is a crime to change any document issued or required under the Act.10

  4. It is a crime to damage, remove or otherwise tamper with any marker demarcating a quarantine area.11

D. Employer’s liability

  1. Any act or omission of a manager, agent or employee that constitutes an offence is deemed to be that of the employer or principal, who can be convicted of that offence unless he can show that he did not permit it, that he took reasonable steps to prevent it and that the conduct did not fall within the scope of the employment of the manager, agent or employee.12
  1. Wikipedia: ‘Rabbits in Australia’

  2. Section 13(1)(a) read with section 3(1)(a). 

  3. Section 13(1)(aA). 

  4. Section 13(1)(a) read with section 3(2)(a). 

  5. Section 13(1)(b) read with section 5. 

  6. Section 13(1)(i) read with section 12. 

  7. Section 13(1)(f) read with section 4(3) and section 9(7). 

  8. Section 13(1)(c) read with section 6(1) and 7(1). 

  9. Section 13(1)(d) and (g) read with section 9. 

  10. Section 13(1)(e). 

  11. Section 13(1)(h). 

  12. Section 15(1).