As Australians begin to prepare for the annual plague that is magpie season, think of our New Zealand neighbors.
The common magpie is just one Aussie export on a list of fauna that have jumped out of the ditch to tease our trans-Tasman cousins.
Our magpies were introduced to New Zealand between 1864 and 1874 by Acclimatization Societies to control insect pests in crops.
Since then, their numbers have soared.
The birds are known to chase and attack other species, driving native birds from their habitats.
They also pose a diving risk to humans. We can relate.
Other Australian invaders currently besieging New Zealand include wallabies, brush-tailed possums, rail plovers and, until recently exterminated, subterranean termites.
The Australian brush-tailed possum is a serious offender.
Introduced in the 1830s to establish a fur industry, the species is considered a pest for its destructive effects on native plants and animals.
Significant efforts have been made to control the possums across large tracts of land, and they are one of the target species in New Zealand’s Predator Free programme, with plans to eradicate them from NZ by the year 2050.
However, of all the major damage Australian species, the wallaby is the number one concern for authorities.
Introduced in the late 1800s mainly for sport and the value of their pelts, but without any natural predators, the populations of Dama and Bennett’s wallabies have skyrocketed.
A third species, the white-throated or Parma wallaby, is believed to be extinct in Australia until the 1960s.
As part of New Zealand’s National Wallabies Management Programme, approximately 100 Parma wallabies were exported back to Australia.
The animals skip rampant through different regions of the North and South Islands, destroying native species and productive farmland habitats.
The Ministry of Primary Industries is leading a coalition of stakeholders – including farmers, regional councils and landowners – who are trying to thwart the proliferation of the wallabies.
John Sanson, manager of Biosecurity New Zealand’s Pest Management Group, said: TBEN newspaper that without the national program wallabies will cover a third of the country within 50 years.
“In 2015, the total gross economic impact of wallabies was estimated at about $28 million per year. If allowed to spread unchecked, costs could reach nearly $84 million per year by 2025 and continue to rise,” Sanson said.
“They compete for feed with sheep, cattle and other livestock, dirty grassland, damage crops, young trees and fences and can contribute to erosion and poor water quality. It is estimated that the daily feed consumption of three Bennett’s wallabies is equivalent to that of one adult sheep.”
Wallabies are an adaptable species, able to thrive in a range of vastly different landscapes; example, the wallabies of Inchconnachan, Scotland.
A certain Countess of Arran with a penchant for keeping non-native animals, including llamas and alpacas, established a colony of wallabies on the isolated island of Inchconnachan in Loch Lomond some time after World War II.
The descendants of those marsupials still roam the Scottish island, with an estimated number between 50 and 60.
Freelance travel writer and Scotland expert Richard Franks visited the island in October and told TBEN newspaper that he had it all to himself…except for the wallabies.
“I saw two hopping around at night and a deer swimming across from another island at dawn. A wonderful experience and perhaps my favorite moment in all my years traveling through Scotland,” he said.
“The Inchconnachan wallabies have adapted surprisingly well to Scotland’s cool climate, with some even saying they loved a dip in the icy lake.
“Walabies are actually very good swimmers and have been known to jump around neighboring islands on Loch Lomond in the winter months.”
There are unconfirmed reports of wallaby sightings on the Scottish mainland, with people claiming to have seen them along the road near the village of Luss.