Wallabies escape new base at fly fishing centre

The centre's owner and Scottish SPCA staff are still searching for the missing marsupials
The centre's owner and Scottish SPCA staff are still searching for the missing marsupials
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THEY’VE been caught on the hop – and someone could be for the high jump.

Two Tasmanian wallabies introduced to a fly fishing centre in West Linton promptly made their feelings clear and made a dash for it.

Bosses could only watch as they dived into the waters surrounding their planned island base at Leadburn Manor and headed for the hills.

One of the wallabies has since been spotted in the centre’s grounds, but both remain on the loose.

The bouncing buddies were introduced to their new surroundings on Tuesday and were expected to become one of the main attractions at the centre, which also keeps huskies, pigs, pigmy goats, chickens, ducks and geese.

Staff from the Scottish SPCA have been brought in to help in the hunt.

SSPCA senior inspector Stuart Murray said: “We assisted the owner in his efforts to round up the animals but they proved impossible to catch.

“We are continuing to help the owner retrieve his animals by means of darting, with a vet in attendance. If this proves unsuccessful we will look at other methods of safe retrieval such as live trapping.”

Wild wallabies are able to cover vast distances in the search for food and have been known to become violent if they do not get it, although attacks on humans are said to be extremely rare.

And with the animals still at large a row has now broken out over who should take the blame for their escape.

The centre claims it was told it would be safe to let the wallabies wander freely around their island home.

But their supplier, Hull-based Smiths Nurseries, insists it had warned Leadburn Manor it would need to pen the wallabies in with fences at least four feet high.

Centre owner Francis Gilhooley said it was policy to keep new arrivals indoors for at least three days, but that he had received advice to let the wallabies roam.

He said: “The breeder told us to put them out on the island as they wouldn’t go near the cold water, and we told them we normally keep new animals inside for three days, but they said they hate being kept indoors, so we went with that.”

However, Smith Nurseries insisted it had told Mr Gilhooley to build a fence around the island.

Charles Hardcastle, who dropped the wallabies off at Leadburn Manor, said he feared the worst shortly after arriving.

“I could see them swimming before we left,” he said. “We told them to feed the wallabies and then leave them alone. When you try and approach them they run, because they get scared. We had spoken the night before and we told them there needed to be a fence of at least four feet, to keep the wallabies in and foxes out.”

Mr Gilhooley now plans to build a fence if they are safely returned to the centre, which was due to reopen today. He said: “If we can sedate them then we can set up a fence to keep them on the island. Obviously the water doesn’t keep them there.”

Scotland’s only other colony of wallabies live on the island of Inchconnachan in Loch Lomond.

It is home to approximately 28 red-necked wallabies, which were introduced to the area by Lady Colquhoun in the 1920s.

A battle has been under way in recent years over plans to cull the wallabies to protect wildlife.