Waikato Regional Council staff are concerned some residents may be treating dama wallabies as pets instead of pests.
Wallabies are like possums – they destroy native bush by feeding on seedlings, ferns and grasses which ultimately means native birds and animals lose out on food and shelter. In large numbers they can also cause problems for forestry and farming by feeding on pine and eucalyptus seedlings and competing with stock for pasture.
Biosecurity pest animals team leader Brett Bailey said the council had recently received a report of a wallaby being kept as a pet at a Hamilton residence.
“This report is still being investigated, but it is simply irresponsible to keep pest animals as pets. These animals are hard to contain and the damage they cause is costly, both environmentally and financially,” said Mr Bailey.
Wallabies are classified as an unwanted organism in the Biosecurity Act and possession of any live wallaby is an offence, unless they have an exemption. Generally, exemptions will only be considered for petting zoos or wildlife parks that meet certain criteria.
“Under no circumstances will Waikato Regional Council grant an exemption to the rules for people wanting to keep wallabies as pets.
“Furthermore, if people are caught knowingly flouting these rules, they could face hefty fines or imprisonment,” said Mr Bailey.
Breaching the Biosecurity Act can result in fines ranging from $5000 to $100,000, and in some cases imprisonment not exceeding five years.
In the Waikato, the dama wallaby population is on the rise as a result of their spread from the Bay of Plenty.
“They can be difficult to control, so we’ve been working closely with Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Department of Conservation on a long term management plan to prevent their spread. This project will be ramping up in the coming months,” Mr Bailey said.
He urged the community to contact the council if they see pest animals like dama wallabies so populations can be controlled and native bush protected.
“Pest management is a priority for the regional council. There is support and advice available to landowners, occupiers and the community about pest plants and animals – everyone has a part to play.”
For pest control advice please call the regional council on 0800 800 401 and ask to speak to a biosecurity officer or visit the website for more information: www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/wallaby(external link).