Easter Bunny hunt is bad news for New Zealand's rabbits

File image of a rabbit Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cuddly pets to some, but a significant agricultural pest to others

An Easter Bunny hunt is taking part on New Zealand's South Island, but there is neither chocolate nor children involved, as it has the sole intention of clearing farmland of a damaging pest.

While outsiders may be alarmed and appalled at the thought of over 300 armed hunters shooting up to 10,000 rabbits and hares over the Easter holiday, it's seen as a free service to the farmers of the Central Otago district, whose crops would otherwise be devastated, the Otago Daily Times reports. The 25th annual hunt brought together teams of shooters with names like Hopper Stoppers and Wabbit Warriors to a park in the town of Alexandra on Friday, where they were allocated blocks of land in which to hunt. They've until noon on Saturday to hunt the animals, the paper says.

In a bid to prevent human casualties, officials have reminded participants to stick to their allocated blocks, avoid alcohol, and to drive safely. The event is organised by the local Lions Club, and acts as a fundraiser for a hospital charity.

According to the Newshub website, rabbits were introduced to New Zealand by European settlers, and plagues of the rapidly-breeding animals routinely damage farmland on South Island. The country's Department of Conservation lists them as "very significant agricultural and ecological pests".

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