I’m currently working with a team surveying the Kakanui Range for the exotic and invasive Bennetts Wallaby. As with many other overseas species, this was introduced into NZ in the late 1800s (1874, near Waimate to be precise) as part of the efforts of the Acclimatisation Societies.
The feeling amongst some at that time was that God, having finished deploying a reasonable range of endemic bird species to these isles, had not got round to finishing off the job and adding mammals. As such they felt that it was their duty to ‘complete His work’, and add a few (their words, not mine). More practically, they were expected to add ‘sport’, meat and a fur / skin trade. Later introductions were brought in to control the out-of-control species previously introduced … ‘there was an old lady who swallowed a fly …’
The end results, as always with such exotic introductions, were disastorous both for native species who were eaten or out-competed, and for the naiscant European farmlands where introduced species destroyed crops and competed with stock for fodder - as is the case with wallabies. Those interested can google Acclimatisation Societies, or if you can get your hands on it, I recommend Graham Caughley’s readable but scientifically grounded social history of the time: ‘The Deer Wars’.
All that said, these exotic species have provided a century-of-so of employment for people, such as my team, attempting to limit their damage.
No major population of Bennetts Wallaby is currently established in Otago, but they managed to cross the Waitaki River (probably via the 2 dams or 2 bridges) in the early 2000s and establish themselves on the Canterbury side of the Kakanui / Hawkdon Ranges. Occasional individuals and small groups have made it across the divide into Otago. A rolling programme of surveillance is carried out to ensure that they do not become established on the Otago side. And we’re currently paid to grid-search 60,000ha of hill country rising from the 500m Maniototo Plains to the 1500m ridgeline for wallaby scat, prints and animals.
Looking for animals that for-the-most-part aren’t there can try the concentration a bit, so the odd break is well needed. And given the scattering of SOTA summits along the range, several unactivated, SOTA provides such a solution.
This week I managed two-such lunch-break activations: Mt Alexander - 1357m - [ZL3/OT-350] and Mt Nobbler - 1550m - [ZL3/OT-324]. Direct access to both summits is via private land for which permission is required, which thankfully we had, and my survey-lines for the week took me over both.
Weather was not exactly co-operative, with a bitter southerly and light snow-flurries being the pattern of the week. Combined with the need to cram the activation into a 30 minute lunch break that meant that a single-band HF activation on 40m was the only realistic option. Both 10-minute activations resulted in a rapid series of chasers – to whom I’ve very grateful. 12 on Mt Alexander on the Saturday, including 2 summit-to-summits and a summit-to-park, and 4 on Mt Nobbler on Wednesday.
Combined with set-up, tear down and sandwich + thermos-coffee both activations were achieved in under 30 minutes. Such brief activations will likely not be popular with some chasers - especially those not able to reach me on 40m - but the result was a summit where there would otherwise have been none. Feedback on that is welcome.
Kakanui Range (west) - taken 3 weeks ago after the last major snowfall
Looking down on Mt Alexander - 1357m - ZL3/OT-350
Mt Nobbler - 1550m - ZL3/OT-324
Activating Mt Nobbler - ZL3/OT-324