A PETITION to save wallabies on a Loch Lomond island from relocation has soared past 22,000 signatures, well on its way to hitting its goal.

Campaigners hit out after an intervention by TV personality and conservationist Chris Packham calling for the animals to be relocated from on the Inchconnachan island on Loch Lomond, which they have called home since the 1940s.

The island was bought by broadcaster Kirsty Young and her husband Nick Jones - who owns the private members club firm Soho House Ltd - for almost £1.6 million last year who have signalled their intention for removing non-native animals from the island.

It is understood that the couple instead want to build a holiday development on the island and get rid of non-native species to make way for indigenous ones.

Packham told the Sunday Times that culling the animals on the island would “court controversy” as the petition to save the wallabies gathered pace. He said that the animals should be caught and relocated instead.

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A spokeswoman for Young and Jones said that they agreed with Packham that relocation would be better, adding: “They’ll always be led by expert opinion and do what’s best for the island’s native ecosystem.”

Now, the man who started the petition has said that Packham's intervention "completely misses the point" as the animals have spent all their lives on the island.

Craig Morrison said: "Today’s intervention by Chris Packham completely misses the point, moving the wallabies off the island is not and cannot be the answer, it would be like relocating Nessie.

"These wallabies have lived on this island for 80 years, all of the current population were born here in Scotland on their island, they are Inchconnachan wallabies, Scottish wallabies and belong on Inchconnachan. They are of great importance to the social, environmental and cultural heritage of the area.

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"Their presence enriches the mystique of the Loch and has an impact on the local economy, with many visiting the area or going on boat trips simply to have the chance to see these beautiful animals."

The animals which are native to Australia and Papua New Guinea were introduced to the island in the late 1940s by the Countess of Arran whose family owned the island since the 1300s.

Up to 60 wallabies are now thought to live on the island.

Morrison said that relocating the wallabies would be a "dangerous, unnecessary and stressful process" and insisted that decisions should be made in terms of what was best for the wallabies, the area and Scotland as a whole.

Young and Jones plan to build a two-storey, three-bedroom timber lodge plus outbuildings, a boathouse and a jetty in place of the derelict 1920s bungalow on Inchconnachan.

The development will be part of the £1.4 billion Soho House empire.

Plans also include rooting out non-native plant and animal species on the 103-acre landmass and restoring wetland and native tree species.

Morrison described claims about protecting indigenous species as "dubious" as he hit out at plans to create a "building site" over a site of special scientific interest.

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He added: "It is very hard to see anything that adds to the magic of Scotland in a plan that will destroy our legendary wallaby colony. How exactly do they think turning the area into a construction site will help the fragile ecosystem or the abundant native wildlife?"

The campaign to save the wallabies will be reaching out to every MSP in Scotland seeking support to provide legal protection for the animals and their habitat.

The petition has soared past 22,000 signatures at the time of writing and is well on its way to its goal of 25,000.