Biosecurity month targets wallabies

Last updated 14:04 02/07/2014
wallaby watch
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WALLABY WATCH: The control of dama wallaby pests is a focus of Biosecurity Month, which runs through July.

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A tasty carrot, slathered in 1080, is the secret to getting rid of wallabies hopping their way through the Waikato region.

July is Biosecurity Month, and Waikato Regional Council revealed one of its targets was  controlling dama wallabies which have been identified as pests,  feeding on native bush. 

The largest population of dama wallabies within council boundaries is at Tumunui near Rotorua, with smaller populations at nearby Ngakuru and Waikite.

''The Waikato River acts as a natural barrier to their spread into many other parts of the Waikato but deliberate releases for hunting purposes or the liberation of pets may extend their range further,'' said council biosecurity officer Brett Bailey.

Roger Lorigan, managing director of pest control company Epro, deals with wallabies and possums in Tumunui near Rotorua and other parts of the Waikato. 

''We did quite a bit of research a few years ago and found out the best way to get rid of them is a 1080 carrot.''Lorigan said wallaby numbers in Waikato have been low in recent years, but about 10 years ago, the area near Rotorua was a haven for the pests.''

We used to measure numbers through night counts, and there was nothing to see for over 100 wallabies at night - now you might get 10 or 20.''

Bailey said an aerial operation using 1080 treated carrot bait several years ago did well to quell dama wallaby numbers in Tumunui.

''There was an operation done in 2007-2008 ... not a lot has been done in Tumunui since then but we are waiting on an ecologist report in conjunction with the Tumunui [Lands] Trust.''

Lorigan said the worst cases of wallabies he's seen in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty area is around Tarawera and Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve.

''There's hundreds of them there and they do a lot of damage to native bush eating the seedlings.''

Lorigan said they do get on the road, but their small stature makes them of little danger to motorists.The Department of Conservation, along with the Bay of Plenty and Waikato Regional councils, has put in place a management plan for dama wallabies.

Currently both councils are using dogs to track wallabies and digital trail cameras as tools to help halt the further spread of the pest.

Dog handler Guus Knopers said the problem is worse in the Bay of Plenty than in Waikato, though tracker dogs have found DNA evidence of wallaby presence in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest.

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''They are not a problem for the Waikato yet, and hopefully they will never become one,'' he said. ''The most important thing is if people see a wallaby they should report it to their nearest regional council.'' 

What to watch out for

Dama wallabies are considered a potential pastoral and environmental pest, grazing on grasses and on native vegetation. In high numbers, they can cause major damage to plant growth in native forests.

Dama wallabies were first introduced to New Zealand on Kawau Island in the 1870s and around Rotorua in 1912. They were first recorded in the Waikato region during the 1950s.

One of the smallest wallaby species, dama wallabies stand up to 50cm tall and weigh between five and seven kilograms.

- Waikato Times

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