Scores of wallabies have small French village on the hop

© Daniel Munoz
A small Paris-area village is experiencing a mixture of bemusement and cultural shock, as it’s overrun by hordes of wallabies, thousands of kilometers away from their native Australia.

The origins of this European village transformation are far less mystical than it seems at first, however. A nearby nature reserve was set up decades ago, in the village of Emance, some 70km southwest of Paris.

These smaller relatives of kangaroos at one point decided that they weren’t OK with the border restrictions and then broke through (or jumped over) the wire fence, as evidence indicates.

This was back in the 1970s. Since then, the population had apparently found the climate very favorable and similar to their home in Tasmania, because they’ve been multiplying at a steady rate. According to AFP, researchers now put the population at 100, although one forester puts the estimate closer to 150. That’s quite an achievement, seeing as the wallaby’s lifespan is only about 15 years.

Perplexed locals had been questioning people if they might be “high” after being asked “have you seen that kangaroo?” according to grocer Marylene, from the neighboring Hermeray, who recalls an incident last June.

Reports indicate that some of the wallabies have migrated as far as 40km from Emance, to neighboring villages and forests.

© Ina Fassbender

The marsupials “integrated really well into the local ecosystem,” wallaby researcher Laure Raad told the newspaper. "They're safe because the forest gives them shelter and they find plenty to eat, feeding mostly on wild berries and green plants."

And there are no natural predators for the wallaby to be found in the area – the 15kg animals is too large to worry about any living threats. Cars are the only problem.

"We probably have about 30 to 40 collisions per year. Not all are deadly but 15 to 20 animals do get killed," Bruno Munilla, a local forester near Rambouillet says.

Humorously enough, Mayor Christine David says she has to provide police with documented proof and certificates every time there is a collision in order to establish the guilty party. They are being forgiven for thinking the person was under the influence of drugs when reporting hitting a wallaby.

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For one local, the sight of a wallaby had allegedly become a wakeup call to give up drinking forever. The fact that wallabies were running around even created “a taboo… a sort of code of silence” around the discussion some 25 years ago, according to a member of the Hunting Federation for Ile-de-France, Stephane Walczak.

That is until 2003, when yellow signs with what looked like kangaroo silhouettes started to pop up. Fast-forward to 2015, and the animal has even achieved the status of ‘local mascot’.