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Where’s wally? ORC calls on the public for help tracking an invasive pest

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In recent years, Bennett’s wallabies have been trying to establish themselves in Otago.

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) Biosecurity Team is asking the community to let them know ‘Where’s Wally?’ to help find and control Bennett’s wallabies in the region.

Wallaby numbers in Otago are still very low, which makes tracking down these highly mobile animals over such a vast area challenging, according to Environmental Officer Simon Stevenson.

"It can be a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack-when you haven’t found the haystack yet.

"Reports from the public of any wallaby sightings are a massive help in our efforts to find and control this pest before numbers get out of hand," he said.

Wallabies damage native bush regeneration and harm young trees. They also compete with livestock for pasture, damage crops and fences. Wallabies have the potential to significantly negatively impact the biodiversity values and economy of Otago.

"A single female has the potential to establish a breeding population of three. A female wallaby can, through what’s called embryonic diapause, have one joey developing in her pouch while also carrying another fertilised embryo ‘on hold’ until the joey is no longer dependant on her," Mr Stevenson said.

"Primarily, we use an indicator dog to follow up on wallaby sightings from the public, in order to find and destroy wallabies in Otago. But there are some pretty innovative new technologies in the works as well."

New methods to find wallabies being trialled in Otago include aerial and ground based thermal imaging and AI thermal cameras which can learn to recognise a wallaby.

ORC is also awaiting approval on operational plans for the $27 million funding boost announced by the government for the Ministry for Primary Industries to get populations of wallabies in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury and Otago under control.

If you spot a wallaby dead or alive, or signs of wallabies, report it to ORC as soon as possible by filling out the form on online at www.orc.govt.nz/wallaby or by calling 0800 474 082.

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