The most exotic species in the Scottish Fauna is the Red-necked wallaby. This species is a marsupial, which are characterised by a pouch in which the young are reared. Marsupials are restricted to Australia and part of the American continent. The best known of all marsupials are probably koalas, kangaroos and their smaller relatives the wallabies. There are two species of kangaroos, the grey and the red, and about 30 species of wallabies.
These marsupials have been kept in zoos and private collections in the United Kingdom for over 200 years. In the UK, there is an enormous colony of Red-necked wallabies Macropus rufogriseus at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire which numbers 500 animals.
In Scotland, Lady Arran maintained a colony on one of the larger islands on Loch Lomond. In severe winters, some hop across the frozen loch surface to live in the woodlands at the lochside. From time-to-time these are seen (or narrowly missed) by car-borne tourists, causing great consternation.
Scottish Natural Heritage's report for 1998 states that there are 28 Red-necked wallabies loose in Scotland and that this represents 90 % of the British population. Terry Hooper of the Exotic Animal Register suggested initially that this must be a misprint as Wallabies are reported to have been living wild in the Peak District in Derbyshire since the 1940s and there is estimated to be around 200 on the loose in England. However, Mr Hooper later reported that neither the Dept. of the Environment nor the MAFF have any official records of these English wallabies.
In Wildlife in Britain and Ireland, published by Book Club Associates in 1976, Richard Perry writes:
... but the most unlikely additions to the British fauna have been the red-necked wallabies, five of which, together with a small herd of red deer (and a yak!) escaped from a private menagerie near Leek in Staffordshire in the early 1940s. This nucleus increased slowly during the next twenty years to a maximum of forty or fifty dispersed in half a dozen colonies over the heather moors and dense woodland and scrub of the Peak, where they subsisted mainly on heather and purple moor grass, though browsing the foliage of pine trees when the snow cover was deep. Although in their home county of Tasmania these wallabies range as high as 3,000 and exceptionally 4,000 feet, the severe winter of 1962-3 in Britain almost wiped out the Peak colonies. Probably fewer than six individuals survived, and since then their increase has been very slow. A few are also at large in the Sussex forests of Ashdown and St Leondard's.
The following message was posted on UKBigCats on 10 th April 2000, suggesting that the Derbyshire wallabies may in fact be extinct:
There have been reports for about 60 years in the area where I live (the High Peak area of the Peak District). It is believed that they grew into a small Derbyshire colony from a few released to the wilds in the days when this area was even more remote than it is today. However, there have been no confirmed sightings for several years now and the local park ranger stated about 18 months ago that he feared they may well have died off.
As they are reported in the same general area that recent sightings of pumas or lynxes have been made (recently confirmed by a wildlife owner to likely result from animals he illegally released near Glossop about 20 years ago) it may be that the wallabies have entered the food chain as a menu for another alien animal.
Note that the Red-necked wallaby Macropus rufogriseus banksianus which is found in New South Wales and Victoria, is closely related to the Bennett's Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus fruticus (previously Macropus ruficollis bennetti) which is a native of the island of Tasmania. Some authorities believe that these two wallabies are actually distinct species.
Chester Zoo also refer to escaped Tammar Wallabies in England.
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