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Animal kingdom: Exotic pets on the loose across Belgium

19:26 01/02/2021

A wallaby escaped from its enclosure last Friday and hopped around Genk for a couple of hours before being recovered by its owner. Calls poured into the nature rescue centre in nearby Oudsbergen as the marsupial bounded past a school, down shopping streets and in and out of traffic.

“Half of Genk saw the wallaby,” Dries Damiaens of the nature rescue centre told VRT. “That little beast didn’t make it easy for us, but it was eventually returned safe and sound to its owners.”

Wallabies and kangaroos are legal to keep in Belgium as long as certain conditions are met. “We know the owner, and the animal has a fantastic space,” said Damiaens. “Apparently it found a way to escape; the owners also let us know right away.”

Turns out that a wallaby is a devil to catch. Rescue centre staff ran after it for two hours before losing it in a nature reserve. “He soon turned up back in the centre of town, where he hopped into the courtyard of an apartment complex. We managed to catch him there with a net. All’s well that ends well.”

Monkey set loose

Authorities in Zaventem, meanwhile, are searching for a lion tamarin after a couple set it loose when the police were at the door. Monkeys are illegal to keep as pets, and the police were following up on a tip that the couple was keeping one.

Rather than face a fine, the couple put the animal outside. By the time the police were informed what had happened, it was gone.

Lion tamarins are native to the Brazilian rainforest and are illegal to keep under Belgium’s exotic animals law. “In this cold and damp weather, the monkey has little chance of surviving,” Zaventem police chief Jean-Pierre Van Thienen told VRT. “There are trees and shrubs in the area, but they don’t provide enough shelter. On top of that, the house is near the motorway.”

The owners have been summoned to appear in court. “Unless you have a special license, you can’t keep this sort of animal,” said Van Thienen. “But if you do get caught, be a little responsible and don’t just let it loose. I don’t think the prosecutor is going to look on this kindly.”

Searching for Iggy

Finally, the people of Diksmuide in West Flanders are keeping their eyes open for a 10-month-old Siberian eagle-owl named Iggy.

Iggy’s 28-year-old owner, Dylan Bogaert, is despondent at the loss of the pet, which escaped from a pen that had not been latched properly after Bogaert’s father had fed the owl. Iggy had been a gift from Bogaert’s mother, who died of cancer last month.

Iggy, a Siberian eagle-owl

Iggy (pictured) is a legal pet, and many of the town’s residents are keeping their eyes open. “I have had a lot of help,” Bogaert told VRT. “I get messages and phone calls from people who are cycling around the area to search for him. Even my postal worker keeps an eye out when he does his rounds.”

Photos, from top: Courtesy VRT, ©Dylan Bogaert

Written by Lisa Bradshaw