Drones and night vision used to halt surging Wallaby numbers – 1News

Wallaby numbers are growing rapidly across the country, with populations spreading down the South Island as far as Otago.

Experts say if left uncontrolled, the pests could colonise one-third of New Zealand in the next five decades and cost our economy $84 million within a few years.

The Australian mammal is hugely destructive to New Zealand ecology – they foul pasture, damage fences, destroy crops and kill forest seedlings.

READ MORE: Pest control focus of funding boost to Auckland maunga authority

It's estimated wallaby populations have dug in around the Bay of Plenty and Waikato and occupy around 14,000 square kilometres across Canterbury and Otago.

But the Otago Regional Council and Environment Canterbury are working with MPI on a $27 million plan to use dogs and drones to catch them at night.

A system is also set up for members of the public to report wallaby sightings. Twenty-four hours after a sighting, a crew is released to track it down using thermal imagery drones alongside a trusty detector duo on the ground.

The GPS location is then passed on to hunters who finish the job.

High Country Contracting owner Khan Adam said the drones are equipped with thermal cameras, essentially night vision that can seek out animal heat signatures.

“The toolbox is pretty limited when it comes to wallaby control so we're trying to work with a few different innovative tools at the moment and the drone being one of them it's relatively new.”

Otago Regional Council acting manager environmental implementation Libby Caldwell says they aim to stop the spread while the numbers are still sparse in the region.

“Wallabies are a massive problem for all of New Zealand.

“In Otago, we're quite fortunate that we don’t have a huge number of them at the moment but we really don't want them to get out of control here.”
© TVNZ 2022


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