by Chris Tobin
Search and destroy teams have been busy in the Mackenzie Basin since July, hunting down wallabies.
‘‘Four teams working with dogs and following up with thermal vision equipment when required have been working in Mackenzie Basin, south Waitaki and in the Timaru management area,’’ Environment Canterbury (ECan) Timaru team leader Brent Glentworth said.
The lambing and calving season had brought work to a standstill at present, he said, but recent snow had allowed some aerial reconnaissance to be undertaken for tracking and searching work.
A small baiting operation also accounted for 38 in the Mackenzie.
However, the work was difficult, with teams having to cover vast areas and revisit them to ensure effective results were being achieved.
‘‘These are very cryptic animals, nocturnal and hard to locate in low numbers outside containment areas.
‘‘Our dog teams are averaging 14 hours’ work for one wallaby at present.’’
The teams were part of a four year long national wallaby management programme in both the South and North Islands to combat wallabies’ threat to biodiversity and risk to farming and forestry.
‘‘Wallaby numbers outside containment areas have been increasing year on year.
‘‘We are searching and working more so numbers are up, but this may be just because as we are putting more effort in. It will take some time to tell.’’
ECan’s South Canterbury wallaby containment area covered 900,000ha just south of the Waitaki River, inland along the eastern side of Lake Tekapo in the Mackenzie Country and north to the Rangitata River to the coast.
The largest concentrations of wallaby populations were in bush country, the Hunter Hills, Albury Range, Kirkliston Range and Two Thumb Range, covering 450,000ha.
Earlier this year a hunters’ environmental advocacy group, the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust, said wallaby meat and hides could be used to earn local and export money.
The trust’s spokesman Laurie Collins, of Westport, said wallabies should be culled for pet food and meat for human consumption both in New Zealand and export markets such as Asia.
“The culture is wrong. Forget the word ‘pest’, think ‘resource’ and exploit them to manage and control,” he said.
Wallabies were first introduced into New Zealand in the 1870s and released at Mt Studholme, near Waimate.