MARAUDING rabbits are threatening to destroy important Roman fortifications constructed by the invading legions as they advanced into northern Britain more 2,000 years ago, a leading archaeologist has claimed.
Dr David Woolliscroft, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool, has identified four important Roman sites in Scotland and the north of England which he says are under imminent threat from "undermining" caused by rabbits. As well as sections of Hadrian's Wall, other endangered sites include Ardoch, an ancient Roman fortress constructed around 80AD near Braco in Perthshire, and Gask Ridge, also in Perthshire, which has been identified as Britain's earliest Roman frontier.
One of the worst affected sites, however, is Fendoch Fort in Perthshire, which Dr Woolliscroft warns will be lost forever unless immediate action is taken to control the spiralling rabbit population.
He said last night: "We did some survey work on the site just over a year ago. It looks to be nicely preserved, but in some parts the ground just gives way.
"It is almost totally honeycombed. I almost broke my leg at one point when I went in up to my thigh. It is on a very steep slope, so sooner or later it is going to collapse, and when it does, it will end up in the river at the bottom of the site."
Dr Woolliscroft warned that a myriad of burrows inside the defensive clay ramparts now threatened to bring down the structure entirely.
Should that happen, it will be an act of destruction never quite achieved by the warlike Picts, as they attempted to stem the advance into Caledonia of the all-conquering Romans.
Although there are currently around 38 million rabbits in the UK - and numbers are on the increase - the population is still well below the high of over 100million recorded in the mid-1950s before myxomatosis was introduced to Britain.
The decay of Scotland's Roman sites, however, has now prompted some historians to call for the re-introduction of the disease to curb the rabbit population and preserve the sites. But last night a leading animal welfare group described the idea as "pie in the sky".
Ross Minnett, the director of the Edinburgh-based Advocates for Animals campaign group, said the disease should never be re-introduced, and claimed that if it ever was, its effectiveness would be negligible due to resistance to the disease built up over the past 50 years.
He added: "The suggestion is absolutely ridiculous."
... compare the coverage from a year ago.
This just in: Rob over at Memento Vivere has a couple of links outlining 'official responses' ...