Jun 5 2009 by Marc McLean, Lennox Herald
WALLABIES that have inhabited a Loch Lomond island for more than 60 years face being wiped out.
Dozens of the cute animals, which are native to Australia, could be culled on Inchconnachan Island as they are now seen as a threat to rare Scottish wildlife.
The wallabies have been munching all the vegetation that rare protected species live on and Luss Estates, which manages Inchconnachan, are considering reducing the numbers of the wallabies or completely getting rid of them to protect the low numbers of Scottish species.
Iain Sheves, factor for Luss Estates, admitted the wallabies may have to go and says discussions are due to take place with other authorities including the National Park Authority and Scottish Natural Heritage.
He told the Lennox Herald: “If it comes down a decision between rare natives species, which are perhaps better served by being on an island because of predation issues, and a non indigenous population of creatures which shouldn’t really be there then we’ve got to go with the native species every time.
“I would hope that people come to Scotland to see native wildlife and habitats rather than a quirk of history.
“Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to try and promote and protect our native wildlife. To disregard that in order to maintain a tourist oddity is not the right thing to do.”
Lady Arran Colquhoun introduced the animals to Inchconnachan in the 1940s and it has been nicknamed ‘Wallaby Island’ since.
Up to 60 wallabies roam wild on Inchconnachan at the moment and the herbivores have been feeding on most types of plants.
A deer count on the island last year also revealed that grazing on the island was high – and the Scottish protected species need a diverse vegetation to survive.
Bob Redley, who runs a B&B in Balmaha, said that the wallabies are a big visitor attraction.
He said: “I would be strongly opposed to the wallabies being culled and believe there should be more debate about it.
“Tourists who stay with us absolutely love going over there to see them, it can be the highlight of their trip.
“When we send info packs out to people we always mention the wallabies and those who come over from Australia are fascinated by them living here.”
Iain Sheves said: “I realise for some people there is some sort of tourist draw to have wallabies out of their natural habitat. But I, for one, would like to think that most people in Scotland would like to have our natural wildlife thriving.
“We are getting input from the experts on these matters and we will be putting together a holisitic management plan.”
Martin Varley, director of Friends of Loch Lomond, said: “Our native species have to be protected and if an introduced species is having a detrimental effect on them, then that’s something that has to be managed.”