Rabbit power

June 28, 1996

Nigel Wace has invented the world's first "hunger-driven" lawnmower. Powered by rabbits Flotsam and Jetsam, the machine rolls across lawns while its inmates nibble and fertilise.

Dr Wace and his two herbivorous companions have visiting fellow status at the Australian National University's research school of Pacific and Asian studies. The rabbits live in a rolling cylinder that Dr Wace constructed out of coarse-weave wire and old bicycle wheels salvaged from a local tip.

There is a plastic hutch inside the cylinder, made from a plastic bucket so they can shelter from the sun and rain. Apart from the grass they consume, they also have supplementary food pellets and water.

Dr Wace want to promote herbivores, not only as lawn mowers but also as suburban pets. Dogs and cats are carnivores and so pose environmental problems, he says. Besides, rabbits were more cuddly.

In an earlier prototype of the lawn-cropper, Dr Wace used a male and a female rabbit called Glasnost and Perestroika. But the male rabbit's habit of regularly raping any available female led to the experiment being abandoned.

That has not happened with Flotsam and Jetsam. They are two males and appear content just to feed and let the world go round.

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