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Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

Wild wallabies in the UK

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I haven't had time to provide answers on the previous article, sorry about that. Busy with preparation for the International Symposium on Pterosaurs, this year being held in Rio. Purely for the sake of adding something new (TetZoo podcast followers will understand the motivation, I hope), here's some recycled text from Tet Zoo ver 2 (though with new pictures). Enjoy!

Reclining Bennett's wallabies at Marwell Wildlife, UK. Photo by Darren Naish.

People outside of the UK – and even many of those within it – are often totally unaware of the several wallaby colonies that Britain has or, at least, had until recently. The animal in question is Bennett’s wallaby Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus, the Tasmanian subspecies of the Red-necked wallaby (the subspecies of mainland Australia is M. r. banksianus). Bennett’s wallaby has been introduced all over the place in the UK, including on Herm in the Channel Islands, in the Weald in south-east England, and also in northern England and Scotland. The biggest colony lives within the grounds of Whipsnade Wild Animal Park (formerly Whipsnade Zoo) in Bedfordshire and is said to have been the source of colonies introduced elsewhere. A colony in Staffordshire mostly died out during the harsh winter of 1962-63 (but were just about still going as recently as the 1990s). The Inconnachan Island* colony started out in 1975 and apparently persists.

* Inconnachan Island is in the huge Loch Lomond, central Scotland.

An especially 'well insulated' Bennett's wallaby, photographed at New Forest Wildlife Park back in 2007. Photo by Darren Naish.

Members of the famous Peak District (Derbyshire) colony – first introduced during the 1940s – haven’t been seen since 2000 and are now thought extinct. Yalden (1988) showed that the wallabies suffered badly from domestic dog harassment and also frequently ended up as roadkill: from a maximum of 50 animals in 1960 they were down to two by 2000.

Because Bennett’s wallaby is widely kept in animal collections, and because they seem to be pretty good at escaping, random individuals are reported from all over the country on occasion. The fact that Bennett’s wallaby comes from Tasmania (and has a distinct breeding season) means that it is preadapted for the British climate. Well, more preadapted than any other wallaby anyway.

For previous Tet Zoo stuff on macropods, see...

Refs - -

Yalden, D. 1988. Feral wallabies in the Peak District, 1971-1985. Journal of Zoology 215, 369-374.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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