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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Wild wallabies

I have recently been doing a bit of research into the Peak District (morespecifically The Roaches) wallabies, which escaped from a private zoo in1939/40 along with other species of animals, such as yaks.I have seen a web site - www.roaches.org.uk/memories5.html

which claims that a Mrs Pickford saw a wallaby in August 2011 in this area.
The Evening Sentinel, a Leek newspaper
ek newspaper dated June 23rd 1972 says:

"WALLABY MAY GO ON BRI
TI

abies from a private collection belonging to Sir Philip Brocklehurst, land-owner and former explorer, of Swythamley Hall,near Leek, may lead to this species being recognised as a British mammal.
SH LIST"
The roamings of some of the wall

It is believed that during the war years a number of wallabies escaped from Sir Philip`s land between Leek and Buxton which includes the Roaches, and settled in the Peak District where a large colony has subsequently developed...

[The population reached a maximum size of about 60 in 1975 according to Wikipedia.-R]

...It has been their survival there over the last 30 years during which there have been several severe winters which inspired research by zoologists who are expected to advance the theory that wallabies can now also be recog
nised as British. The reaction of Sir Phillip now 85, was mainly concerned with the welfare of the animals. He told The Sentinel:

"The wallabies in the peak district are certainly descendants of those belonging to me. It is all right so long as people leave them alone. Some members of the public try to chase them." Despite the number which left the Leek area wallabies - which are between 2 foot 6 ins and 3 foot in height are still seen on the more remote parts of Sir Philip`s land."(1)


In early Sept 1976 the Leek Post and Times published the following along with 3 accompanying photos:

"The N.Staffordshire wallabies are alive and well and Post and Times staff photographer Andrea Richardson has the photographs to prove it. Just where the wallabies are we are not - in the interests of conservation - able to say, but the photographs clearly indicate they are thriving - and they are still breeding.

When Andrea first discovered the animals two or three months ago one female had a baby in its pouch, and a couple of weeks ago a half grown specimen - presumably the baby in the pouch - was hopping about with three adults. The wallabies - red necked and on average about 3 feet in height - have been a source of wonder since the late Courtenay Brocklehurst purchased a pair from Whipsnade in the early 1930s. They were kept in captivity on the Swythamley estate until they escaped in 1936 [N.B. This contradicts other opinions, see above that say they escaped in 1939/40-R]

They then adapted very well to the local environment and bred freely and indeed all the members of the local group are descended from that original pair. Extremely timid - they leap at the slightest sound or movement - and blending in perfectly with their moorland surroundings , the wallabies are rarely seen, and so we are naturally glad to be able to prove that they are
still here and still doing well. (2)

In July 2012 I took 2 colour photos of "Wally", a wallaby stuffed and contained within a glass case in Leek Local Studies Library. He was found dead on December 19th 1993 by Mr Graham Ives of Gradbach as he walked through Lud`s Church,which isn`t a church but a rocky outcrop. It was stuffed by a professional taxidermist for £580. In Feb 2012 "Wally" re-appeared at the National Trust Education Centre at Illam who donated it to the Leek Library.

“A friend of mine,Darren, as a child in about 1979 saw an albino wallaby at a rocky outcrop, called `Lud`s Church` in the Peak District. I have a vague memory of seeing a letter in the BBC Wildlife magazine several years ago mentioning albino wallabies there in the 1950s. Inbreeding?

1. Leek Evening Sentinel 23-6-1972

2.Leek Post and Times Sept 1976

3 comments:

Syd said...

I have never heard the story about them escaping from Swythamley Hall, near Leek.
The tale I have heard quite frequently over many years and from some reliable sources (personal friends and family members), is that a group of Wallabies, along with some other exotic creatures, either escaped or were intentionally released from the Riber castle zoo near Matlock, Derbyshire.
But where ever they came from, it would seem that the Wallabies are not too afraid of being close to human habitation.
In 1988 or 1989, a dear friend of mine, (now deceased) who owned a large house with several acres of grounds in the village of Quarndon, which is about 3 miles from Derby city centre, looked out one summer morning around 9am and saw 7 or 8 Wallabies hopping around and browsing on what had formerly been is families tennis court, which were at the time rather wild and overgrown. The tennis court was situated only about 25 yards from the rear door of the house.
This was by no means the first time he had seen the creatures and I understand that both his gardener and his housekeeper had also seen them on occasions.

BobSkinn said...

Syd's comment about the rumour he heard about animals released (or escaped) from Riber Castle Zoo is interesting.
I recently followed up a similar rumour re Lynx being allegedly released from Riber in the 1980s(by animal rights activists).
I wrote to Eddie Hallam, the director of the zoo at that time, sending him a copy of a recent cutting that repeated the story. He denied it:

"I can tell without any fear of contradiction that the whole story is absolute rubbish and a pack of lies.Newspapers don’t check there facts because they ”don’t let the truth get in the way of a rubbish story, let alone a good one”.
In all my years at Riber Castle not one lynx ever escaped. When I left I donated all, except two elderly ones, to various collections.
Some time after I left Riber some”animal rights,” did release some prairie marmots but that was all.
The article which you enclosed is utter garbage. Lions and tigers don’t hide in the undergrowth,they sit out and would be easily seen. I still work on lynx projects and although they are more timid and secretive the have loud mating calls in January which would make everybody in the neighbourhood aware of their presence.
People believe they see all sorts of things from visions of angels to ghosts, it is easy to be deceived.
I would treat any such sightings with the utmost suspicion, although with wildlife you never say never."

(see postings in "Big Cat Sightings Anywhere" and "Beastwatch" FB pages).

Bob Skinner

alanshs said...

The wallabies - among many other animals including yaks and llamas - were obtained (not bought) by Courtney Brocklehurst in 1936. They were surplus stock from Whipsnade. He was given them on condition Whipsnade could take half any offspring. Courtney was FZS (a Fellow of the Zoological Society) which owned London and Whipsnade Zoos. He had provided the zoos with many animals any birds during his time as Game warden of the Sudan.
The zoo was at Roches House on the Roaches, which was part of the Swythamley Estate owned by his brother, Sir Philip. There is a wonderful description of the whole zoo (a Staffordshire Utopia) in the Leek Post & Time of 13 Aug 1938.
I have read on the internet that some wallabies escaped in 1936 but have not seen an independent verification of that. The consensus round Swythamley seems to be they escaped early in the war when the fences were less well maintained. There were confirmed sighting up to around 2001 but only unconfirmed ones since.