Wallabies: they are cute, relatively small, and “exotic” to European audiences. These circumstances led to the introduction of red-necked wallabies, an Australian species, early in the 20th century to countries like England, Ireland, and France. At that time, wallabies were kept in zoos and private collections. Some escaped, especially during World War II when people had more important things to think about than fence maintenance.
In England today, there is little information available about the fate of those introduced wallabies. Two researchers, Holly English and Anthony Caravaggi, wanted to know what happened to those wallabies. They collected information on wallaby sightings by scouring through official records, social media, and newspapers. Thanks to the wallabies’ cuteness and distinctiveness compared to other animals, sightings were often reported in local news.
In their recent article, published in Ecology and Evolution, the researchers found small populations living throughout southern England. It seems wallabies can survive in England and potentially even breed. While some of the wallabies they found are probably escapees from current private collections and zoos, such escapes are unlikely to account for all wallaby sightings in the region.
So, if you are ever in southern England, and think you spot a wallaby, don’t be too surprised!