A Leap To Freedom Hopaway Wallaby On Loose In County

Posted: May 27, 1998

WEST GOSHEN — A small kangaroo has jumped camp and is on the run - er, hop - in Chester County.

Animal officials and local police are on the lookout for a 1-year-old Bennett's wallaby named Ru-Ru, who escaped from his West Goshen home Saturday.

The little guy was last seen Saturday afternoon hopping his way down the middle of Route 100 near its intersection with Route 202, West Goshen police said.

West Goshen police have issued a bulletin on the runaway wallaby, and workers at the Chester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have searched for Ru-Ru, said John Pechin, SPCA coordinator of animal-protection services.

``It's pretty much like a wild goose chase,'' Pechin said. ``The best we can hope for is that someone spots it.''

A pet of West Goshen wholesale animal merchant Betty Somers, Ru-Ru high-tailed it during a romp around the warehouse he shares with other exotic animals such as monkeys and reptiles, Somers said.

``During the day we let them out [of the cages] and let them play around,'' Somers said. ``Somebody left the back door of the warehouse open. They went to get him and he just ran.''

The 2 1/2-foot marsupial ferreted his way through a hole in a fence behind Somers' property before his caretakers could nab him, she said.

Wallabies are smaller members of the kangaroo family, said Georgeanne Irvine, spokeswoman for the San Diego Zoo.

The folks at Somers' company, B & J Bird's Eye View Inc., suspect Ru-Ru is still cooling his heels in a small, densely wooded area between the fence and Route 100.

``We believe he's still around the area somewhere. We hope,'' Somers said.

Ru-Ru spends about six hours each day skipping around the large warehouse and playing with toys and his buddies, including a small marmoset named Dudley, Somers said.

Hide-and-seek is their favorite game, she said.

``It's a game that they play all the time,'' Somers said. ``Ru-Ru would go look for him and the monkey would smack him on the nose.''

Ru-Ru had never been outside, she said.

``He never really heard cars going by that much,'' Somers said. ``I don't know whether he can [find his way] back.''

He might not be the most clever critter around, but he is comical and curious. Known to affectionately nibble on his caretakers' arms, he's friendly with humans and dogs, Somers said.

But those traits might not be in his best interest while he is in the wilds of West Goshen. The two dangers facing him are cars and other animals, she said.

``He's OK with dogs, but dogs may not be OK with him,'' Somers said.

Somers also worries about him contracting rabies from another creature.

``He's very curious and he wants to sniff everything,'' she said.

His only defense would be scratching with his long front claws and kicking with his back feet, which are nearly two feet long, said Lori Whitely, one of his caretakers.

When he is upset he makes a gurgling-chattering sound, Somers said.

Of course, he can always make a break for it if in trouble. Ru-Ru can run about 20 miles per hour and can jump up to five feet in the air, Somers said.

As for sustenance, Ru-Ru has hit pay dirt, Somers said. Whitely feeds the dark-auburn wallaby a couple of cups of a kangaroo food, oatmeal, broccoli, grapes, sweet potatoes and apples each day. He'll do just fine substituting that with leaves, dandelions and wild berries, Somers said.

``He's in his glory right now,'' Whitely said.

Away from the large pillow in his cage, Ru-Ru, who does not climb, is probably sleeping under a tree, Somers said.

Somers paid $1,500 for Ru-Ru about six months ago at an Ohio auction, she said.

IF YOU SEE HIM * Anyone who encounters Ru-Ru is asked to call West Goshen police at 610-696-7400 or the SPCA at 610-692-6113. The SPCA's Pechin advises not to chase him.

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