In a country where wild kangaroos outnumber the population of humans 2 to 1, there are surprisingly few places where these beautiful animals are looked after and cared for. Australian zoos and wildlife parks no longer want to take in more kangaroos, so what happens when a kangaroo gets sick, injured or is left to survive in the pocket of a mother who is dead?
Australia’s most iconic animal is well looked after at Kangaroo Sanctuary. Located just outside Alice Springs, the sanctuary is home to Brolga, an Australian man and his unique family of red kangaroos.
About The Kangaroo Sanctuary
Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns established the baby kangaroo rescue centre in Alice Springs in 2005, after he rescued his first joey from the pouch of a kangaroo, whose mother was hit by a vehicle and left on the side of the road. It was that day, he says, that transformed him forever. He then went on to build his own wildlife sanctuary from 2009-2011, which is open to the public a few days a week.
The Kangaroo Sanctuary’s mission is to educate and encourage people to rescue and care for kangaroos, which is accomplished during their sunset tours. It is obvious that the health and safety of the kangaroos come first; With help from volunteers, they rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned baby kangaroos back into the wild. Those who can’t be released into the wild are allowed to stay in the protection of the sanctuary. The 188-acre wildlife reserve is secured with a fence, not only to offer the kangaroos a safe, protected space but to keep other wild animals out, like dingos and other dogs.
Alex and I had the opportunity to visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary while in Alice Springs on our road trip. The Sanctuary is only open to the public in the evening, between Tuesday and Friday, and as we weren’t going to be in Alice Springs again during their opening days, it was now or never. The boys didn’t want to come along, and I must say, they really did miss out!
I was happy to learn the Kangaroo Sanctuary only takes a small number of people each tour; we had a group of 19 in total, ranging in age and nationality. The only way to access the Sanctuary is through the tour and their organised transport, so as not to disrupt the site or the kangaroos living there at any other time throughout the day. No one is allowed in during the day — this goes for the staff, as well as Brolga too.
As we stepped off the bus, Brolga himself was there to greet us. Having just watched part of the BBC documentary ‘Kangaroo Dundee’ in the coach on the way over, it was incredible to see him in person. Standing tall at 6’7, with a big smile on his face, he happily greeted everyone and began talking about his kangaroos and the home he built for them.
Our Tour Of The Kangaroo Sanctuary
The Kangaroo Sanctuary works with a lot of baby kangaroos. Just before we were guided into the sanctuary, Brolga opened up the small bag he was carrying on his shoulder and introduced us to Rooie.
He explained baby roo’s need to be closely monitored, especially after losing their mothers, to ensure they grow up healthy and happy before being returned to the wild. For all intents and purposes, Brolga is Rooie’s new mum, and will look after her for up to 6 months, before deciding if she is to be released back into the wild. To best reenact the pouch, Brolga puts the kangaroos in a pillowcase and carries them around in a cloth bag over his shoulder.
After we walked through the small tin house Brolga and his kangaroos used to live in, we paused in front of a small basket. I thought we would use it to carry Rooie around in, but instead, Brolga opens up a second pillowcase, to reveal Zenzen.
Each baby kangaroo at the sanctuary is paired with a best friend, another baby kangaroo whom they spend all their time with. They play together, eat together and keep each other warm as they sleep together. As long as they are both healthy after their time at the Kangaroo Sanctuary, they will also be released into the wild together. Best friends are never separated, so that means if one has to stay at the sanctuary, both will remain.
As everyone gathered around to get a closer look at the baby ‘roos, Brolga passed Zenzen to Alex and Rooie to another girl on our tour. He said they love to be carried, and we’d have to take turns as a group to hold them, for 10 minutes at a time!
With kangaroos in our arms, we then began our walk through the Sanctuary. Brolga lead our walk up in the front, and introduced us to his family. He knew all of them by name, and while they were timid and shy when we approach as a group, they would come directly to him to say hello.
As they had just woken up, the kangaroos we met were hungry, and Brogla had a mixture of dry food and bottles of milk on hand. He passed one to me, and I got to feed a female kangaroo who was nervous at first, but eventually came over for her snack.
Roger The Kangaroo
The highlight of our tour was meeting Roger the kangaroo. Maybe you’ve heard of him? National Geographic and the BBC absolutely love him, and the kangaroo shot to global fame after their documentaries were filmed at the Kangaroo Sanctuary.
Roger was one of the first kangaroos Brolga rescued and lived permanently at the sanctuary. He was known for being ripped, and he had plenty of muscles to show… the two-metre tall alpha kangaroo went viral after crushing a bucket.
“Roger has recently been recognised as one of the ten most famous animals in the world. Photos and videos of Roger go viral all the time because he’s world-renowned as being really muscular, with a great physique.” Says Brolga (National Geographic)
Upon seeing this image of Roger, the World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Federation issued the kangaroo his own gold medal — which Brolga happily showed us!
We only had a few minutes to say hello to Roger, who was resting as we came by. The old kangaroo looked very different from his prime, but he lit up when Brolga came by. Unfortunately, Roger the Kangaroo passed away only a week after our visit, at the age of 12.
Support The Kangaroo Sanctuary
The Kangaroo Sanctuary is not government funded and runs entirely on donations. Purchasing a ticket to their sunset tour helps directly fund their operations, which will soon also include a Kangaroo Hospital.
The passion and excitement Brogla shares for his kangaroos is infectious, and you’ll soon fall in love with this beautiful animal, especially when a baby ‘roo falls into your arms.
Sunset provides the perfect backdrop for a magical evening, walking through the sanctuary and learning about red kangaroos. I cannot recommend this tour enough, for all the wonderful things they accomplish and the lives they change. Thank you, Brolga!