Created | Updated Jun 26, 2009
Driving through the Peak District in Derbyshire, you may be rather surprised to see what looks like a small kangaroo hop across the road. Should this happen, relax, this is not an apparition, you haven't imbibed too freely at a local hostelry1, you have in fact just seen one of Derbyshire's small colony of Macropus rufogriseus banksianus, the red-necked wallaby.
The wallabies are descended from a small group which escaped from a private zoo at Leek, Staffordshire in the 1930s, along with a number of deer and one yak (the yak was recaptured). Strange as it seems that wallabies could survive in the Peak District, in their native environments of Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria, Australia, they live at up to 4000ft, so snow and frost are not unusual conditions for them to encounter. The harsh winter of 1962 to 1963 nearly killed them off though- it is believed that only six or so of the creatures survived, and population regrowth was slow. The numbers were reported to rise as high as between 50 and 60 in the 1970s. There have been no confirmed sightings of the wallabies since 2000 though, and it is believed they may have died out, it is possible the colony has simply drifted to more remote areas, however. Wallaby sightings have been reported as far south as Barton-Under-Needwood, Staffordshire in 2002. It would be a shame if they have died out, as their presence has brought much tourist interest to the area, and the sight of one has brightened many a local's day.
The Peak District is not the only place wallaby colonies exist in the UK; Scotland has some at Lady Arran, on one of Loch Lomonds' islands, and there are a few in Ashdown Forest, Sussex.