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Discover weird and wonderful wildlife around the UK

We share our land with some weird and wonderful wildlife here in the UK, including the wallaby, parakeet and coati, but just how they came to arrive on our shores may come as a surprise to some.

The Siberian chipmunk is native to North European Russia and East Asia. Small colonies can now be found living around Berkshire, although not necessarily welcome due to their invasive ways. Theories behind their arrival include Channel Tunnel migration and escape from captivity.

The killer shrimp is originally from the steppe region between the Black and Caspian Seas and were first discovered in Cambridgeshire and Wales back in 2010. They are thought to have attached themselves to the hulls of ships or been contained in ballast water.

Native to the Americas, it is thought that the small population of coatis found around grasslands and wooded areas in Cumbria are a result of pairs escaping from captivity, or possibly deliberate releases. The coati has also been spotted as far south as Buckinghamshire.

The red-eared terrapin is usually found in the warmer climates of North America and was introduced to the UK as a common pet during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze of the 1980s. Large numbers can now be found in public parks in Cardiff and London with their wild population explosion blamed on the pets being released.

The ring-necked parakeet is originally from India and their UK population lives mainly in the South East, particularly around London and parts of Kent. They are believed to have been released into the wild from captivity back in 1969. Other theories about their UK arrival include a daring film set escape, and the result of a Jimi Hendrix stunt.

Found in temperate and tropical seas across the world, rhinochimaeridae can now be found in the murky depths of the ocean surrounding the UK. Although related to exotic species such as sharks and rays, they have slowly made their way to UK and Irish waters.

The stick insect arrived in the UK from New Zealand attached to plants brought over in the early 20th century. Today five species flourish in large colonies spotted around the south west of the UK, most notably in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

 Originally from Australia, around 100 wallabies now live on the Isle of Man. There’s also an established colony as far north as Scotland, living on an island on Loch Lomond, with further sightings recorded in Kent and the Peak District. One colony descended from a pair that escaped from a wildlife park over forty years ago. Another was introduced by an animal-loving aristocrat in the 1920s.

Before the population became established in the UK, the western green lizard was unsuccessfully brought to the mainland from the Channel Islands many times in an attempt to naturalise it. The current surviving colony was discovered in 2003 and lives amongst the brushy clifftops of Boscombe, Bournemouth.

The range of the yellow tailed scorpion extends through Northwest Africa and Southern Europe. It is thought they arrived in the UK during the mid-19th century after hitching a ride on a ship. An estimated 13,000 live in the cracks and crevices of buildings and dockyards far away from human disturbance at Sheerness Dockyard on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

For further information and illustrations relating to each of these creatures visit the weird wildlife gallery.

Main image: The coati


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