FIVE partygoers attending a 30th birthday party at a Dublin hotel where a wallaby was let loose chipped in €50 each to rent the animal, it has been claimed.
There was international outrage over the incident after footage emerged showing the distressed animal cruelly being thrown around the room.
Partygoers danced with it roughly and crudely in the Clarion Hotel in Liffey Valley, west Dublin, to the theme tune of Australian television show Skippy The Bush Kangaroo. There have been allegations that the animal was plied with alcohol and ecstasy but these are entirely unsubstantiated, according to garda sources. There has also been speculation that the wallaby may have died after the incident, but gardaí say there is no firm evidence to suggest it is dead.
On Thursday, an Australian businessman living in Ireland offered a €10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the cruelty against the wallaby.
The anonymous donor offered the cash reward through Animal Rights Action Network (Aran), which has been inundated with calls since.
Some of the 97 calls with information have been dubious, said Aran director John Carmody, but one caller had a lot of specific information about the incident and the group has reason to believe the information was genuine.
"We have information that five of the men attending the party chipped in €50 each to rent the wallaby for €250. We hope the animal is alive but it may well have suffered a heart attack. We want to try and find out who was responsible for the horrific act," he told the Sunday Tribune.
"We also want to try and identify conclusively who the man in the video is who is essentially simulating a sex act with the terrified animal. We will then go to this man's workplace and ask for him to be sacked."
Aran has also received calls saying the wallaby may have been bought through the Done Deal website for €800 but said these claims could not be substantiated. Other callers have claimed the animal was sourced in the North.
Alexander Scholl, owner of Australian Super Circus Sydney, sited two minutes' walking distance from the hotel, has told gardaí he has two wallabies and neither was handed over to partygoers at the birthday party.
He has dismissed claims by Aran that up until recently he had three wallabies and one has now disappeared.
"Look at these animals. They are wild, there is no way anyone could bring one into a nightclub in a hotel," he told the Sunday Tribune. "I have only had two wallabies, Skippy and Sydney, for the past year, not three. I would never rent one anyway. I have spoken to the gardaí about this."
His daughter Mandy said there was a lock on the wallabies' enclosure meaning that they could not have been stolen either. "Our wallabies are wild, not tame. You could not take them into a nightclub. I hope they find the person who did this because it was a very cruel thing to do to the animal."
Gardaí have spoken to Michael Byrne, from Clondalkin, whose 30th birthday was being celebrated, and to some of the 150 revellers present. It is understood that most of those who gardaí interviewed have not been forthcoming with information.
Gardaí are currently trying to trace the owners of all wallabies in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Clarion Hotel has also handed over CCTV of the incident to detectives. The DSPCA and Aran say the footage highlights how easy it is to get hold of an exotic animal in Ireland and new legislation is urgently needed.
Animals such as wallabies, zebras and crocodiles are all available for sale on Irish websites and in many cases no licence is required to own the animals.
The Clarion Hotel yesterday issued a statement saying it is appalled by the incident. "The hotel staff had no prior knowledge of any plans which included an animal of any type being brought to this event. The staff acted immediately to address the situation as it occurred and the entire incident lasted a matter of 72 seconds in total."