Aerial methods used to rid Otago of wallabies
Wallaby hunters are turning to helicopters, drones and thermal cameras in a bid to eradicate the pests from Otago.
The Otago Regional Council predicted the cost to the South Island economy would escalate to about $67 million a year within a decade if action wasn't taken now.
The pests cause serious damage to the environment, deplete forest understories, prevent native forest regeneration, compete with livestock for food, foul pastures, and damage crops and fences.
The council is part of the government's national wallaby eradication programme.
Environmental Implementation acting manager Libby Caldwell said winter remained the best time to use aerial methods.
Winter conditions limited foot access to areas of the Otago high country, but cooler temperatures made it easier to see wallabies using thermal image cameras, she said.
Helicopter and drone operators work with hunters and a dog wearing a transmitting collar to track and eradicate wallabies.
They are all linked to an app called WALL-IS which puts everything on the national wallaby database so they can map the searched areas.
The estimated economic benefit to the South Island by eradicating wallabies was more than $23.5 million a year.
"Wallabies are in Otago now and we need to act fast to stop the spread of this pest," Caldwell said.
"The public are a vital part in our eradication programme, by reporting sightings. If we don't act to eradicate the wallaby population, we face a very real threat to the iconic landscapes that we love here in Otago."