The Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is set to investigate a video posted by a TikTok user in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, who claims to be building his own zoo. The video shows wallabies that the user claims were bred in the UK. Following Brexit, importing animals from the UK into Northern Ireland now requires compliance with EU regulations and additional paperwork.
The TikToker, Kyle Thomas, a 19-year-old from Kent who moved to Northern Ireland five years ago, has gained over 35 million followers on the platform. He regularly posts videos with non-native species such as meerkats, wallabies, and capybaras.
Thomas recently purchased 14 acres of land in Stoneyford, intending to create an animal sanctuary. However, earlier this year, his mother was charged with keeping a capybara, named Queen Elizabeth, without a license. The capybara featured extensively in TikTok videos and attracted attention.
The capybara, a giant rat native to South America, was seen in the videos dressed in a crown and necklace, being fed fruit, and even participating in what appeared to be a marriage proposal. The animal was ultimately euthanized by a vet due to illness.
Several individuals involved with the capybara, including Thomas’ mother and Michael Dickinson, the owner of a pet shop in Carrickfergus, faced legal convictions related to transporting, reporting, and importing the animal without proper permits.
The DAERA, responsible for animal welfare inspections, has not provided details of its ongoing investigation. However, they have clarified that while Northern Ireland has no statutory welfare licensing requirements for animal rescue and rehabilitation centers, all animals are protected under the Animal Welfare (Northern Ireland) Act 2011.
Zoos in Northern Ireland are subject to a dual licensing system, requiring licenses issued by the DAERA. These licenses ensure compliance with animal health, safety, and welfare conditions. Some zoos may also require licensing under the Zoo Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003, regulated through the Wildlife Team of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
In response to the video, DAERA will investigate whether Thomas has the proper paperwork to import wallabies from the UK. The department has made it clear that if necessary, appropriate action will be taken.
In addition to wallabies, Thomas claims to have a variety of other pets, including a kangaroo, a fox, a frog, a parrot, a cat named Hillis, and two monkeys named Freddy and Tris.
Despite multiple attempts to request comments from Thomas, he has not responded. However, during a recent TikTok live video, he expressed frustration over the capybara’s situation, stating that it had caused immense pressure and negatively impacted his life. He asserted that the land was purchased with good intentions to benefit the animals.
Q: What sparked the investigation into the TikTok user’s wallaby video?
A: The Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) began investigating after the TikTok user claimed to have bred wallabies in the UK. Post-Brexit, importing animals from the UK to Northern Ireland requires compliance with EU regulations and paperwork.
Q: What legal actions have been taken regarding the capybara featured in the videos?
A: Kyle Thomas’ mother was convicted of keeping a dangerous wild animal without a license, while the owner of a pet shop involved in transporting the capybara faced convictions related to permits. The capybara itself was euthanized by a vet due to illness.
Q: What licensing requirements exist for zoos and animal sanctuaries in Northern Ireland?
A: Zoos are subject to a dual licensing system. The Animal Welfare Act (NI) 1972 requires a license from the DAERA for premises where wild animals are kept for public exhibition. Zoos may also need licensing under the Zoo Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003.
Q: Has the TikToker applied for a zoo permit?
A: The DAERA stated that applications for licenses are private matters between the department and the specific premises, declining to disclose whether Kyle Thomas has applied for a zoo permit.
Q: Will the DAERA investigate the TikToker’s wallaby importation paperwork?
A: Yes, the DAERA will investigate whether the TikToker has the proper paperwork to import wallabies from the UK.
Please note that the information provided in this FAQ section is based on the available information at the time of writing and is subject to change as the investigation progresses.