Wild wallaby sighting on Hampstead Heath
RSPCA: It's possible this wallaby is lost or has escaped from private property
16 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
The wallaby which roamed the streets of Highgate in 2013
A WILD wallaby has been spotted on Hampstead Heath – prompting Heath workers and walkers to keep their eyes peeled for more sightings.
James Doudan was walking to school with his son, Oscar, 8, last Wednesday morning when the animal – usually native to Australia but with small numbers of wild groups living in isolated areas of southern England – appeared from behind trees and raced across their path.
It came out of woods that run alongside Wildwood Road and darted over to the Heath extension, said Mr Doudan. “It was moving so fast it was almost horizontal – but I know it was definitely a wallaby,” he said.
Having read in the New Journal two weeks ago of plans by Heath managers the City of London to bring six wallabies to an enclosure in Golders Hill Park, he assumed it must be one that had escaped – until he called the Heath Constabulary and was told they are not due to arrive until June.
Mr Doudan said: “It was about 10 metres or so in front of me and couldn’t be anything else.”
The Constabulary said it was more likely to be a fast-moving muntjac deer, occasionally spotted on the Heath – but after searching online for an image, Mr Doudan remained adamant that he had seen a wallaby.
He added: “We were both so shocked. We thought: what the hell was that? We assumed it must have escaped from somewhere, but maybe it has been living wild on the Heath.” One Heath ranger told the New Journal: “We have heard rumours but none of us who work on the Heath all day and are in that area every morning has seen a wallaby. We’ll keep a careful eye out for it.”
Six years ago a wallaby was spotted on the Heath and at Highgate Cemetery before finally being tracked down to a playground in York Rise, Dartmouth Park. The RSPCA gave it surgery for a broken foot, but it died after failing to recover from a general anaesthetic.
In 2013, laws were introduced, forcing wallaby owners to apply for new licences – and it was believed an unscrupulous owner had let some go wild in Highgate Wood.
The thick woods where Mr Doudan saw the animal are in one of the more secluded areas of the Heath.
A City of London Corporation spokesman said: “Our ranger team and volunteers will continue to look out for the wallaby, but we have yet to find one on the Heath.”
An RSPCA spokesman said that the sighting was rare, but not altogether surprising.
He added: “Wallabies are considered established in the wild in Britain, as a result of escaping from captivity, although they are not a native species to the UK. Some people keep them in private collections, so it’s possible this wallaby is lost or has escaped from a private property. Anyone who finds a wallaby injured or in need of help should monitor the animal from a distance and call the RSPCA emergency line on 0300 1234 999.”