Online news

Winter war against the wallabies

Wallaby hunters are turning to helicopters, drones and thermal imaging cameras to try and eradicate the pests from Otago.

The Otago Regional Council has predicted the cost to the South Island economy will reach around $67 million a year within a decade if action is not taken now.

The pests cause severe environmental damage, deplete forest understory, prevent regeneration of native forests, compete with livestock for food, pollute pastures, and damage crops and fences.

The advice is part of the government’s national wallaby eradication programme.

Acting environmental enforcement officer Libby Caldwell said winter remains the best time to use aerial methods.

Winter conditions limited access on foot to areas of the Otago high country, but cooler temperatures made it easier to see the wallabies using thermal cameras, she said.

Helicopter and drone operators work with hunters and a radio-collared dog to track and eradicate wallabies.

They are all linked to an app called WALL-IS which puts everything on the national wallaby database so they can map searched areas.

The estimated economic benefit to the South Island from eradicating wallabies was over $23.5 million per year.

“The wallabies are now in Otago and we need to act quickly to stop the spread of this pest,” Caldwell said.

“The public is a vital part of our eradication program, reporting sightings. If we don’t act to eradicate the wallaby population, we face a very real threat to the iconic landscapes we love here in Otago. .”