Akubra has been made to import most of its hats’ key component – rabbit fur – due to a shortage in local supply.
ABC’s Landline reported yesterday that it has been harder for the iconic Australian hat maker to keep production going using local rabbits, whose numbers have been decimated by the Calicivirus.
"Rabbit fur is the best fur to make our hats out of, and the rabbit industry in the '40s and '50s was absolutely enormous, wild rabbits that is, there was no farmed rabbits in those days," the company’s managing director told the ABC.
In an interview with Manufacturers’ Monthly last year, Akubra’s company secretary and director Roy Wilkinson estimated that the hat maker would use the fur from about 2.5 million rabbits in 2013. The fourth-generation family company uses the pelts of about a dozen rabbits to make one hat.
Calicivirus, introduced in the 1990s, has killed off a great deal of the Australian rabbit population and there are now few suppliers remaining.
"In the areas where it's been most effective - which is in the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia - it has reduced rabbit populations by 90 per cent," Griffith University ecologist Hamish McCallum told Landline.
Keir said that Akubra is now importing 65-70 per cent of the fur it uses, with local quality low and cost high. Akbura's biggest international supplier is Ukraine, currently suffering political unrest.
To read last year's in-depth feature article on Akubra from Manufacturers' Monthly, click here.