Browsers, not just grazers

A government adviser said not to use tree-guards in our revegetation; we had de-stocked and rabbits, hares or wallabies would graze on kikuyu, not seedlings. We planted 100 tubes with care, but without tree-guards. It was soon obvious the seedlings were being munched to the ground and most were killed. Red-necked and swamp wallabies were eating trees as fast as we could plant them.

We had wrongly viewed wallabies as grazers, not browsers. In fact, they feed on the foliage and young bark of a wide range of trees and bushes. We first tried plastic tubes around hardwood stakes; they were torn down immediately saplings became visible. When we electrically fenced the home paddock, the shocks merely made wallabies push through harder. So we fenced the paddock with ringlock, adding a one-way exclusion trap, which reduced their numbers. But eventually a panicked animal forced his way through the ringlock, teaching others how to do so. It was three years before one brave animal cleared the cattle grid; now many do it.

Rabbit netting tubes on hardwood stakes were heavy, expensive and time-consuming, and tree roots and branches, plus kikuyu runners, resisted removal. Instead, we stapled corflute to the stakes; these were moderately effective, but blocked light and air-flow and degraded quickly.

At last, we have an effective, economical approach that resists damage (photo). Three 17 mm x 1.5 m hardwood stakes are clothed in 1 m x 0.9 m of scaffolding cloth. Staples attach the cloth top and bottom to each stake. Occasionally, a wallaby reaching up to a tasty shoot pulls down the cloth, but it rarely kills the tree. The mesh allows air movement, and most of the necessary red light passes through. The system is relatively inexpensive and lasts for many years.

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