Making a party animal of a 'kangaroo'

 

A packed 30th birthday party is no place for a live marsupial. They're not even suitable pets, writes Rosita Boland

ALL SORTS of bizarre things can happen in the heightened atmosphere of a big birthday party, but the sudden appearance of a marsupial on the dancefloor at Dublin’s Liffey Valley Clarion Hotel on Saturday night was a new and unwelcome one for the staff working there.

An estimated 150 people were present at a 30th birthday party in the hotel when at about 11pm, one of the guests opened a large box.

Yesterday, the hotel’s manager, Garret Marrinan, reported to The Irish Timeswhat then unfolded. “The duty manager saw a huge commotion on the dance floor but he couldn’t see what was happening. He stood on stage to get a better view, and saw what he described as a large dog coming out of the box. He couldn’t get near the area due to the crowd, and by the time he got near the place, the animal had been taken away. It was all over in about a minute.”

It was only after the party that hotel staff became aware that the animal was not in fact a dog, but a creature described as a “kangaroo” in calls to the Dublin office of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) on Monday by members of the public. The hotel has since passed on CCTV footage and details of the party booking and of those present on the night to the Gardaí, who have visited the hotel and are currently investigating the incident.

The Irish Timeshas seen a copy of the 74-second video from the party which was briefly circulated on Facebook before being withdrawn. While the first few seconds are pixelated, later footage clearly shows a nightclub setting with a man in a white shirt picking up a marsupial animal about three feet high. People crowd around them shouting, screaming and laughing over a loud soundtrack. Cameras and cameraphones flash repeatedly in the animal’s face, as it makes frantic attempts to break free.

Members of the crowd shove inwards to grab and touch the creature. The video ends with the man holding the animal to his groin and simulating a sex act to roars from the crowd.

Orla Aungier, operations manager of the DSPCA, confirms that they had received a number of calls from the public who had seen the video and attended the party.

“Our suspicion is that the animal is a wallaby,” she says. “The story wasn’t a surprise to me, because we are aware wallabies are being bred here. They’re being bred in captivity, and we have seen wallabies being offered for sale in Mayo, Cavan, and Northern Ireland, with prices quoted at being between €600 and €700. Today I saw a zebra for sale in Ireland on the internet. This all gets back to the fact that we have no licensing for exotic pets in this country. There should be a register of these animals, so that we can keep a track of them; who owns them, and what happens to them. You need a licence for a dog, but not for an exotic pet.”

Native to Australia, wallabies are smaller than kangaroos at roughly one-third their size. It is currently illegal to export live animals from Australia. Wallabies cannot be house trained, and are susceptible to stress. Nonetheless, there are reports of them being kept as house pets in various countries, including Japan, Greece and the US. Their life-span in captivity is shorter than the norm.

Among the exotic creatures being listed for sale yesterday on one Irish website alone, donedeal.ie, there were corn snakes, king snakes, bearded dragons, a pair of emus (€500), and a python (€200), advertised as being “very friendly” with the seller explaining it was being listed for sale because he had “no room as U can see its on the fire place.”

“We’ve seen a huge trend in recent years for exotics – reptiles, ant-eaters, caimans,” Aungier explains. “We do not consider wallabies to be appropriate pets because they are wild animals. They have very specific needs. If it was a wallaby that was brought to that disco, it was an entirely inappropriate place for it to be. That animal would have been very distressed by the way it was being manhandled. It was cruelty.

“This is why we need to publish the animal health and welfare bill as soon as possible, and establish a register of exotic pets.” The current whereabouts and wellbeing of the animal are unknown, although there have been unconfirmed reports that the creature later died. “We want to find out what happened to that animal,” Aungier states.