By Manus Lenihan
Mystery surrounds a bizarre incident of animal cruelty that occurred at a thirtieth birthday party in the Clarion Hotel in West Dublin in mid-October. A video, circulated on Facebook and played on RTÉ news on Tuesday 19, showed a knee-high marsupial on a crowded dancefloor, being manhandled and thrown around, before a party-goer grabs the struggling animal and pretends to have sex with it – all while the theme song to “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” blares from speakers.
This video and the testimony of staff and party-goers are among the only sources of information we have on the incident. The animal, believed to be a wallaby or else a very small kangaroo, is widely reported to have died following its ordeal. Whether this rumour is true, and what exactly it died of, is in dispute. Some say that the animal was fed alcohol and died as a result. Leaving aside drugs and drink, speculation that the shock of the loud and crowded nightclub environment might have been enough to harm the animal seriously was backed up by the DSPCA. The Metro furthered in a headline the unconfirmed rumour that the marsupial was killed by ecstasy.
The animal was brought into the party either in a box or on a leash, and by one account, it was brought in the first place because Australian Super Circus Sydney had no monkeys. The circus was pitched just 500 metres away from the Clarion hotel. The circus’ owner, Alexander Scholl, insists that both of his wallabies are alive and well and that he would never let them go clubbing. Scholl went on to suggest, on RTÉ’s Liveline, that the animal might in fact have been a man in a kangaroo suit. “You know how the Irish people drink,” he said, “they can see anything.” His second explanation is that the partygoers could have gotten the wallaby anywhere.
This is true. To traffic and abuse exotic animals is in fact quite easy in Ireland. A cursory look at the pets section of donedeal.ie shows us a pair of infant bearded dragon lizards for sale for €60 and, a bit higher up the price range, a pair of dingoes for €1250. While dog-owners need a license in Ireland, owners of exotic animals – some of which, including wallabies, are bred within these borders – need put up with no such regulation.
Scholl’s brother Martin is on trial in England for drugging two dogs, and questions have been asked about Scholl’s circus before, notably when, in Antrim in 2007, an elephant died mysteriously and was incinerated before the police could examine the body. A new angle was thrown on the story on October 24 when the Irish Mail on Sunday published a picture from last year of Scholl in a club holding a wallaby. Scholl’s wife Yvette insisted that the whole wallaby incident had been an attempt by animal rights activists to smear the circus. Scholl himself, however, stuck to the “man in a costume” explanation, which is sounding less convincing with every photograph.