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Published: 2014-06-30 00:00:00

The need to keep a lid on the number of wallabies in the Waikato after they were imported from Australia early last century is one of the region’s focuses during Biosecurity Month which begins tomorrow.

Dama wallabies are a pastoral and environmental pest, grazing on grasses and on native vegetation.

When present in high numbers they can cause considerable damage to native species, altering the present and future composition of native forests.

The Australian wallabies were set free in the Bay of Plenty in 1912. Since then their spread in the wild has expanded to cover approximately 180,000 hectares, including areas of the eastern Waikato region.

“Currently the number of Waikato wallabies is low,” said Waikato Regional Council biosecurity officer Brett Bailey.

“But, due to the Waikato’s abundant suitable habitat, there would be significant threat to the region if their numbers increase.”

The largest population of dama wallabies within Waikato Regional 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 Mr Bailey.

The Department of Conservation, along with the Bay of Plenty and Waikato Regional Councils, has implemented a management plan for the dama wallabies.

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

"We need the public to be on the lookout and report to us any sightings of these animals,” said Mr Bailey.

More information on wallabies is available at:

http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Services/Regional-services/Plant-and-animal-pests/Animal-pests/Dama-wallaby/