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Could wallabies be about to colonise north Essex?

PUBLISHED: 10:53 18 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:53 18 August 2018

There have been sightings of wallabies in the wild in recent months

There have been sightings of wallabies in the wild in recent months Picture: ANDREW MUTIMER

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AS far as invasive species go, wallabies are among the most exotic but despite several sightings in the wild in recent weeks, wildlife experts say it is ‘highly unlikely’ the marsupial is about to colonise parts of East Anglia.

National newspaper the Sun covered the story of a wallaby sighting in north Essex in early August.

The tabloid reported that shopfitter Steven Clark had snapped pictures of the mammal on the roadside in Panfield near Braintree at 5am in the morning.

“I’ve lived round here ages and never heard of one being loose. But as soon as I posted on Facebook lots of people started saying they’d seen it before,” Mr Clark told the Sun. The images caused quite a stir locally and soon the wallaby was being called the Braintree Bouncer.

Essex Wildlife Trust says it believes the animal had escaped from a travelling carnival which had visited the area in June.

Amateur naturalist Peter Rowe also recently contacted the EADT after seeing a wallaby in a field near Foxearth on the Suffolk/Essex border as he drove home one evening in late July.

“It was twilight, around 9.30pm, and I spotted something in the field the other side of the hedge and I thought it was a child at first,” he said.

“I stopped the car and it sat up on its hind legs - it was two to three feet tall. The way it sat up it couldn’t have been anything else than a wallaby - it was definitely that shape.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me and before long it had hopped through the hedge.”

Ten months earlier, someone who did have their camera with them was Julian Eley who captured images of a wallaby on the roadside also near Foxearth.

Nature enthusiast Mr Eley from Glemsford said he had heard reports of wallabies in the area and had purposely set his iPhone up on his dashboard to film any activity he might encounter.

“It was my lucky night and I was chuffed when I caught it on film,” he told the EADT. “I thought I’ve got to share this as it’s not going to happen again.”

Mr Eley said he had heard there was someone in the village who keeps a number of unusual animals and that maybe the wallaby had escaped from there, although he was unable to substantiate this theory.

The Essex Wildlife Trust says an escape from a collector is the most likely explanation for the sightings of a creature that originates from Australasia.

In a statement the Trust said:“Historically we have received very occasional sightings of wallabies in the county, however these individual and rare reports mean it is highly unlikely there is a population of wallabies living in the county. We have to assume these occasional sightings are escapees from private collections or like in this instance, a travelling carnival that was held in June.

“In individual cases they will not pose a threat to our native ecosystem but if people do see one, please contact your local wildlife rescue organisation to try to reunite the lost individual with where it came from.”

However, beyond East Anglia several wild colonies of wallabies - who have escaped from wildlife parks and acclimatised to British weather - are known to exist. Populations live wild near Loch Lomond in Scotland and in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. On the Isle of Man, a population of about 100 wallabies has established itself in the Curraghs, a wetland nature reserve on the island.

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