The Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove has cancelled all hands-on encounters with its rabbits over the Easter weekend, citing the spread of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) to the Lower Mainland.
An online announcement posted to the Zoo website said zoo rabbits have been placed in quarantine,
“The safety and security of our animals and guests are our top concern and in order for us to have a safe and Easter experience for everyone, we will have live bunnies for viewing only, and will no longer offer petting of our bunnies at this time,” the announcement said.
“In compliance with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, our team has put together key biosecurity measures in place which includes the prolonging quarantine of our bunnies.”
The zoo had been planning to offer children a chance to learn how to care for bunnies over the holiday. Other weekend events, like the Easter egg hunt, were not affected.
B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development issued a press release in mid-March after testing confirmed that feral rabbits in Delta and Nanaimo had died from rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) — an extremely infectious virus that attacks blood vessels and organs.
It was the third confirmed diagnosis of the virus in Canada and the first in B.C.
The disease does not pose a hazard to humans but has a 95 per cent mortality rate among rabbits.
All the dead rabbits have been feral European or domestic rabbits, meaning pet rabbits are at risk. The virus kills rabbits by affecting their blood vessels and attacking the liver and other organs, causing hemorrhages. Most affected rabbits die suddenly, but can show signs of listlessness, a lack of co-ordination, behavioural changes or trouble breathing before death. There is often bleeding from the nose at the time of death.
According to a fact sheet released by the BCSPCA, RHD can be spread easily through direct contact with bedding, food and water, as well as the feces and body fluids of infected animals. People, through their clothing, hands and vehicles can also spread virus to uninfected colonies, as can insects and wildlife that have contacted or fed on infected rabbits.