Modern life kills off the last of Britain's wild wallabies

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Britain's most curious wild animals, the red-necked wallabies of the Peak District, are believed to have become extinct. Road kills, dogs and human disturbance are thought to have destroyed the small group of kangaroo-like animals.

Britain's most curious wild animals, the red-necked wallabies of the Peak District, are believed to have become extinct. Road kills, dogs and human disturbance are thought to have destroyed the small group of kangaroo-like animals.

They were the only marsupials in Europe and have lived and bred on the Staffordshire moors for 60 years, since being turned out of a zoo at the start of the Second World War.

Derek Yalden, a Manchester University zoology lecturer who studied the wallabies, said yesterday that last winter only two females were left, and the population might now have died out completely. "I think it's quite likely," he said. "If they haven't, they're certainly doomed."

The red-necked wallaby, Macropus rufogriseus, is a native of Tasmania; about as big as a medium-sized dog, it has a grey-brown body and the kangaroo family's characteristic two-footed hop.

Like all marsupials, it carries its young in a stomach pouch.

It owed its presence in Britain to the exotic animal collection of Captain Courtney Brocklehurst, a Staffordshire landowner who was killed in the last war.

War regulations meant Capt Brocklehurst's private zoo at his home, Roaches House near Buxton, had to be disposed off. His group of wallabies were turned loose in the countryside.

The animals found the Peak District congenial and gradually built up their numbers until by 1960 there may have been 50 of them. But the severe winter of 1962-63 cut them back drastically. Since then their numbers have fluctuated but since 1988, when there were about 14, they have steadily declined. "There are too many people and dogs and a lot of road casualties," Dr Yalden said.

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