Wal­laby tracks found near Alex

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Wal­laby tracks have been dis­cov­ered on a farm near Alexan­dra.

Otago Re­gional Coun­cil en­vi­ron­men­tal man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Scott MacLean said a landowner no­ticed up to three tracks in the snow on his prop­erty at Gal­loway, in Cen­tral Otago, about three weeks ago.

‘‘There were three dif­fer­ent tracks to­gether that var­ied in size - a cou­ple of adults and po­ten­tially a ju­ve­nile .’’

The landowner tracked them as far as he could in the snow, then lost them, MacLean said.

‘‘He made con­tact with us but did quite a bit of his own sur­veil­lance with a he­li­copter.’’

Orig­i­nally, the Otago Re­gional Coun­cil agreed with the landowner and the Man­iototo Pest Com­pany to wait un­til a sig­nif­i­cant snow­fall to catch the pest an­i­mals.

‘‘But that didn’t even­tu­ate so now we are look­ing at other op­tions. We haven’t com­pletely de­cided what we are go­ing to do.’’

Op­tions in­cluded a re­mote sen­sor cam­era or po­ten­tially putting peo­ple on the ground with dogs, he said.

‘‘We are work­ing closely with the landowner and the Man­iototo Pest Com­pany, pool­ing resources and work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively. We don’t know if it is an iso­lated inci- dent. The landowner has only seen signs of them. He has never seen wallabies be­fore so it may in­di­cate it is an iso­lated few an­i­mals.’’

They were treat­ing the mat­ter with ur­gency.

‘‘We are tak­ing it very se­ri­ously. We have 100 per cent con­fi­dence the landowner knows ex­actly what he is look­ing at and we are ex­tremely se­ri­ous about pre­vent­ing the estab­lish­ment of a breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of wallabies in Cen­tral Otago.’’

There was no known breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of wallabies in Otago, but they were present across South Can­ter­bury and could spread ei­ther nat­u­rally or by in­ten­tional re­lease.

‘‘Ben­nett’s wallabies were in­tro­duced from Tas­ma­nia into the Hunters Hills near Wai­mate in the 19th cen­tury for recre­ational hunt­ing and have reached large pro­por­tions in some ar­eas of South Can­ter­bury. They com­pete for pas­ture and im­pact our na­tive bio­di­ver­sity. They can also dam­age young trees and crops.’’

Penal­ties for know­ingly re­leas­ing wallabies in­cluded up to five years’ im­pris­on­ment and/or up to a $100,000 fine.

SUP­PLIED

Wal­laby tracks have been dis­cov­ered near Alexan­dra, in Cen­tral Otago.

SUP­PLIED

Devon Lam­beth started at Clyde Pri­mary School on Au­gust 5

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