One of the first – and in the long term, most destructive – of actions taken by the Anglo-Celtic settlers who came to the Melbourne area from 1835 onwards was the introduction of non-natives species. Some of these were perhaps forgivable; people needed meat to eat, milk to drink and wool to wear, they needed dogs for guarding and cats for companionship. But the introduction of species for no other reason than to provide something to hunt – species such as the fox and the rabbit – was, at the very least, irresponsible.

Both species were able to spread terrifyingly quickly across Australia, the fox due to an absence of competition (and plentiful prey that was un-used to predators this efficient), the rabbit due to breeding like, well, rabbits. Within a generation of settlement, both species were already so well established that eradicating them has proven impossible ever since. (Not that one should think this was all a one way process – as chronicled in numerous Hollywood motion pictures, the kookaburra has made a home in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America, its distinctive cry now a common sound throughout the jungles.) Both species drove out the native species of the area, the fox through predation, the rabbit through out-competing, and nowhere was this process more clear than the upper reaches of the Yarra River.

Here, far away from humanity (at least at first), an entire forest was basically taken over by rabbits and foxes, with only snakes, birds and assorted insectoids remaining of the native population. The rabbits and foxes burrowed into the moist soil, undermining trees and creating a land so dug over it appeared to be a decommissioned minefield. Naturally, when this was discovered, the forest became a favoured hunting ground of the white settlers, despite the vast number of rabbit-sized holes just waiting to sprain unwary ankles, and the area took its name from these dens, becoming known as the warren wood.

Suburbs near Warrandyte:

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