INDEPENDENT NEWS

Knocking Down Wallaby Populations

Published: Tue 24 Jan 2023 06:34 PM
Wallaby populations are continuing to grow in Aotearoa, prompting the launch this summer of the first national awareness campaign.
The Tipu Mātoro: Wallaby-free Aotearoa campaign shines a light on the extensive damage these invasive pests wreak on our environment and asks New Zealanders to report wallaby sightings.
“Wallabies silently prey on the futures of our forests and farms,” says John Walsh, Biosecurity New Zealand’s director of response.
“We are working in partnership with regional councils, local iwi, farmers and landowners through Tipu Mātoro to manage and reduce populations, but we need everyone’s help.
“Population estimates set wallabies at more than one million, but as they are nocturnal and excellent at hiding, public reports are one of the best ways we can manage the spread.”
With no natural predators, two introduced species in particular are causing millions in damage each year -- the dama wallaby in Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty, and the Bennett’s wallaby in Canterbury and North Otago.
“If left unchecked, by 2025 wallabies would cost New Zealanders around $84 million a year in damage and over the next 50 years, they could spread through a third of the country,” Mr Walsh says.
“Wallabies graze on bush undergrowth, and, when moving into an area, can quickly decimate new shoot growth, destroying our native species' habitats and food sources. What were once lush forest understories turn into barren wastelands, meaning that in the coming years our native bush won’t regenerate.
“And their impacts are felt beyond our native bush. They compete with livestock for food, damage fences, foul up pastures preventing it from being a food source, eat planted forest seedlings and contribute to erosion and poor water quality.”
Mr Walsh says the campaign is part of the Tipu Mātoro: Wallaby-free Aotearoa Programme, which focuses first on stopping the spread of wallabies from known areas in the Bay of Plenty/Waikato and in South Canterbury/North Otago.
“By targeting populations outside these containment zones and following up on reported wallaby sightings, the programme can prevent new populations establishing elsewhere in Aotearoa.”
The programme is also undertaking the significant research required to understand wallaby behaviour in a New Zealand context, supporting effective containment and control.
“If you spot a wallaby, please do your bit and report it at www.reportwallabies.nz."

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