Akin to the ‘surprise’ and often-unwelcome puppy Christmas present, American Idol judge and singer-songwriter Luke Bryan has gifted his wife two kangaroo joeys.
The country crooner and TV-show host has shared a video of himself playing Kris Kringle, blindfolding his wife Caroline and presenting a bag of “designer purses” – otherwise known as a bag containing two baby Australian marsupials.
In the video caption, Luke, 41, said the animals were the latest addition to “Brett’s Barn”, referring to an animal petting zoo the family has created at their Tennessee property.
In August, Caroline announced she had “hijacked” one of her husband’s barns to create the small zoo in memory of her nephew, Brett, who died aged just seven months earlier this year.
The barn houses llamas, ponies and other animals for children living with illnesses.
But the marsupial surprise has sparked outrage on social media, as well as among Australian veterinarians and wildlife carers.
“Young kangaroos are highly anxious animals and often don’t last long in the hands of people who aren’t trained animal carers,” one concerned commenter wrote on Luke’s Instagram account.
Leanne Wicker, a senior veterinarian at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, told The New Daily that while it is illegal to keep kangaroos as pets in Australia, a large market for exotic animals exists in the United States.
Dr Wicker noted that Australia does not export native animals, but marsupials were found in zoos and private collections in the US.
She said kangaroos had specific dietary and husbandry needs, and it was “highly likely” the kangaroos were quite stressed.
“They’re [pictured] inside near a fire, it’s a very unnatural way to be keeping them, and macropods – all species of kangaroo and wallabies – are really susceptible to stress-related diseases.
“It’s very sad to see, but it’s a whole other world in the United States,” she said.
Wildlife carer, Jean Quick, who runs a sanctuary from her home in Boolarra in eastern Victoria, told The New Daily she didn’t think kangaroos should be in America unless they were being cared for in a zoo.
“This man has made a big hero of himself, giving his wife two joeys,” Ms Quick said.
Ms Quick, who has cared for more joeys than she can count, also questioned how the Bryans were caring for the baby kangaroos, pictured on Caroline’s Instagram page next to a roaring fireplace and wearing baby nappies.
“@Live Roo and roo Tang Clan are living their best life. Seriously … real names are Margo and Todd,” she captioned the image. “They are adjusting perfectly [and] are beyond sweet and precious.”
“That’s a no, no,” Ms Quick said about the diaper-clad kangaroos.
“There’s nothing natural about it. They are wild animals. You have to try to think of how their mother does things.”
Ms Quick told The New Daily it was also illegal for her to “show” her rescue animals, according to rules set by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“Wildlife caring is not easy. I’m happy with what I’m doing, but I understand why people drop out of this. It’s a full-time job.”