RSPCA Australia has condemned a social media video which showed a teenager forcing a quokka to vape from an e-cigarette at Rottnest Island in Western Australia (WA).
The recent video showed a teenage girl laughing as she shoved an e-cigarette device down the quokka’s throat. The quokka, which could be seen standing on its back legs, licked at the device which it believed to be food.
RSPCA WA executive manager Hannah Dreaver told 9News it was “completely and utterly irresponsible and unacceptable for this poor defenseless, vulnerable animal to be subjected to that kind of cruelty.”
“Those animals are really, really vulnerable,” Dreaver warned, explaining that “they’ve become used to human interaction so they’re not running away from us” or “avoiding interaction,” and are instead “actually seeking it out.”
According to 9News, an investigation has been opened into the incident and those responsible could receive a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a fine of AUD$50,000 if caught and charged with animal cruelty.
Quokkas are classified as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and have been targeted in similar acts of cruelty in recent years.
In 2017, a 20-year-old man was fined $4,000 after he was recorded kicking a quokka, while another man was fined $200 in 2018 for feeding alcohol to one of the marsupials.
RSPCA WA expressed concern at the time over “irresponsible people interfering with wildlife,” noting that “anything other than their natural diet can be extremely harmful” and that alcohol “can potentially kill an animal as small as this.”
“What concerns us is that people do this and post it on social media thinking it’s funny, when it is actually intentional cruelty that can have severe or fatal effect on the animal,” the charity declared.
In 2015, Australians were outraged after two French tourists were sentenced to just one week in jail after setting a quokka on fire for fun. The men recorded the incident and could be heard laughing as the animal went up in flames. The quokka survived and was not seriously injured, though it was visibly singed.
Quokkas have frequently been described as the world’s happiest animals due to their smiling appearance and are most often photographed with tourists at Rottnest Island, where roughly 10,000 quokkas live.
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