Animal organizations and experts are concerned about the striking number of wallabies that have escaped in the Netherlands in the past two weeks, they say after questions about this by NU.nl. Keeping the medium-sized kangaroo variant is not prohibited in the Netherlands. However, especially in the summer months, the animals take every opportunity to run away.
The police have been very busy in the past two weeks. Wallabies escaped from their lofts in countless places throughout the Netherlands and went for a walk in town or village. This happened in Zeeland, Drenthe, Limburg, North Holland and Brabant, among others.
The animals did no damage. But the trend is worrying for animal organizations, agrees biologist Godelieve Kranendonk of the Aap Foundation. “Because of the corona insulation, many people are more at home than usual,” she says.
“That invites you to spend more time with their exotic animals, and the chances of them accidentally leaving the enclosure open are greater. Wallabies are fast and only need a small chance to escape.”
‘Wallabies naturally need space’
Wallabies do not belong in a Dutch backyard or petting zoo, Jan Pol agrees. The Drenthe vet, known for the National Geographic series The Incredible Dr Pol, has had a practice in the US state of Michigan for nearly forty years. Here he regularly gets sick wallabies during his office hours. “They are animals that need space,” he insists.
They naturally have that space in countries such as Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where they live in the wild. “It is related to the kangaroo, they love to jump and run,” says Pol. “Of course they cannot do that in gardens or cubicles that are too small. They always keep those natural impulses.” This urge intensifies in the early summer months, the natural mating season for the marsupials.
Many people have marsupial as a status symbol
The Aap Foundation shares Pol’s concerns. “In captivity, wallabies often have too little space to move,” says biologist Kranendonk. “Our advice is always not to keep them as pets. It is very difficult in our country to meet the natural needs of the marsupials.” For example, an owner should have a fence of at least 5 meters to ensure that they do not break out. “That is the height of the jumps they can make.”
The Mammal Society is also emphatically not in favor of keeping wallabies as pets. “This type of exotics survives and it does not bother you much, but of course they do not belong here,” emphasizes biologist Maurice La Haye. “They look cute and people see it as a kind of status symbol,” said La Haye. “Look at me having a crazy pet! But of course that should never be a motive for buying an animal.”
‘Rather take an Old Dutch country goat’
It is legal in the Netherlands to keep the Macropus Notamacropus, as its official name is. But at the same time, nobody knows exactly how many are in the Netherlands; those numbers are not kept. There is also no registration obligation from the government, something that animal organizations have been advocating for years.
“If you really want to have a slightly larger animal for your garden, it is better to take an Old Dutch goat in your home, for example,” advises La Haye of the Mammal Association. “This land is their natural habitat, so you bring a piece of cultural history into your home. At the same time you help protect a rare animal species.”