Surprised The Simpsons didn’t predict this one, but there are literal wallabies on the loose in the UK countryside. The thing is, they’ve actually been in the wild since the 1930s, so why is this not a widely known fact?
The runaways are red-necked wallabies (perfect), the cute doggo-sized marsupials many foreigners confuse with Kangaroos. And they’ve been cutting about the British countryside for over a century, according to the ABC.
Originally imported to zoos and private collections, their wild population began because these little guys were talented escape artists, and during WWI zookeepers also intentionally released them as they dealt with more pressing matters.
Have you lost a wallaby? ‘Skippy’ seen around the Woodmancote near Dursley. Owners pse call 101 quote 462 of 26 Sept. pic.twitter.com/aq9LpFiQJG
— Glos Police (@Glos_Police) September 27, 2015
There’s been reports of sightings throughout the 2000s and 2010s but again, the fact feral wallabies are on the loose didn’t seem to phase the British.
Thankfully, we have answers. Holly English (a PhD student at University College Dublin) and Dr Anthony Caravaggi (a lecturer in Conservation Biology at the University of South Wales) worked alongside each other to try and piece the mystery together. They estimate that there are currently about 95 wild wallabies across the UK.
Did you know there are feral wallabies roaming around Britain? @thonoir and I used record centre data and media reports to figure out where they are and when they’re spotted.
Infographic by Kim Caravaggi pic.twitter.com/Fw5EH7MNkJ
— Holly English (@Lycaonpictus93) November 3, 2020
“There hasn’t been a great deal of attention given to wallabies in the UK, despite fairly regular sightings reported in local media,” Caravaggi explains. “They are usually assumed to be escapees from zoos, or people simply didn’t believe that what they’d seen could have been a wallaby, as they are not native to this country”.
Somehow, it feels like the perfect stitch up: people travelling from all over the world to see our native roos, when really, they could just pop over to a local area like The Chiltern Hills or Peak District and try their luck with the cuddlier-looking version.
It’s clear what the UK’s next step should be: creating a ‘Where’s Wallaby?’ puzzle book.
And while this all sounds pretty harmless, the introduction of non-native species to an area can have a destructive impact on native flora. It’s one of the reasons why Australian immigration laws are so tough and why studies of these kinds of populations are so important.
(Lead Image: Twitter / @glospolice)
Sonia feels most at home on the road, with travel her greatest passion. But really, she’s hype about a lot of things: beautiful design, tasty food, wellness, nature, interesting people and women’s issues. The Founding Editor of Junkee’s The Cusp and former Homes Editor at Nine, Sonia prides herself on seeking out authentic experiences with charm and loves sharing a personal rec. Catch her on Instagram @sonnietothetee.