They may look cute and cuddly, but they are killing our native plants and biosecurity want them gone.
“We can’t afford to let wallaby populations spread further. Ultimately – we want the country to be wallaby-free. It’s not a quick fix, and we need to get it right,” Biosecurity New Zealand’s director of readiness and response, John Walsh, said in a statement.
“Wallabies have a huge appetite for many of our native seedlings, shrubs, ferns and grasses which prevents their regeneration, changing the structure of our forests and reducing their ability to support our native birds and other wildlife," Walsh said.
"Our estimates place the environmental and economic damage caused by wallabies reaching $84 million a year in lost farm production and ecosystem services by 2025."
Wallabies were first introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s for sport and their skin, but with no natural predators, their numbers have soared.
If left unchecked wallabies could cover a third of the country over the next 50 years, Walsh said.
Holidaymakers are being urged to keep an eye out for signs of wallabies dead or alive.
"While wallabies are naturally elusive, hiding in bush or scrub during the day and coming out to feed at night, reported sightings of wallabies – dead, alive, paw prints, or scat (poo or droppings) are fundamental to the success of stopping their spread," Walsh said in a statement.
Walsh said South Canterbury and Rotorua Lakes are of particular concern, where their numbers are up by tens of thousands.
Efforts to control wallaby numbers have been underway for decades, but these have been stepped up through the unified National Wallaby Eradication programme.
Wallabies are classified as an unwanted organism in the Biosecurity Act 1993, which means they can't be bred, sold, moved, or exhibited without a permit. There are fines of up to $100,000K and/or five years imprisonment for those who do.
The public can report any sightings of wallabies anywhere in New Zealand to www.reportwallabies.nz.