Have you heard of Chris Barnes Brolga and his kangaroo sanctuary? In the heart of the Australian bush a man lives alone, surrounded by orphaned kangaroos that he raises with complete devotion! For a long time, this hero was unknown, but fortunately today his action is receiving all the attention and support it deserves. We tell you more about this passionate man and this beautiful story.
The kangaroo: The symbol of Australia
This cute and impressive animal is the largest marsupial in the world. The kangaroo is native to the Australian continent, the only place on earth where you will find it in its natural environment. Despite its large population, many of these animals are injured and also killed each year – approximately 3 million die each year. The main reasons for these deaths are slaughter (which is allowed) and road accidents. Chris Barnes works to save these animals for whom he has developed a special attachment! He looks after them and takes care of them on a daily basis (feeding, walking, playing and cuddling…). This is his story.
To discover our article on kangaroos, click here!
The story of Kangaroo Dundee
Chris has always been passionate about kangaroos, Australia’s most iconic animal. For many years he has dedicated his life to rescuing and breeding orphaned kangaroos and releasing them back into the bush. Through his patience and love, he has been able to save hundreds of kangaroos which, without their mothers, were destined to die.
Near Alice Springs, Chris ran his own sanctuary (Kangaroo Sanctuary) for a long time, which he built with his own hands almost 20 years ago and financed through odd jobs. First, he created a rescue centre for baby kangaroos (2005) and then he built a sanctuary (2011) of almost 80 hectares. This sanctuary receives and cares for orphaned baby kangaroos and rescued adults. This enthusiast cares for the little joeys as if they were his own children having observed the behaviour of the mother kangaroos in his sanctuary and then imitating them. This includes six regular milk meals a day, walks in the bush and lots of loving care. The little kangaroos follow him as if he were their mother. He teaches them everything they need to know to live independently in the wild, where he later releases them. Chris uses pillowcases as substitute pockets. Like a mother kangaroo’s, they provide shelter and warmth.
Chris Barnes Brolga, unsung hero, not so unsung…
The BBC-UK approached Brolga in 2011 while he was living in the bush in a tin shack with his kangaroo family. Chris agreed to film a documentary with one sole aim: to raise awareness of the plight of kangaroos orphaned by road accidents. According to the insurance company Budget Direct, kangaroos account for 90% of the animals injured on Australian roads. This is a real phenomenon unique to Australia, a danger for both kangaroos and motorists.
Through this BBC report, his sanctuary was revealed to the general public. We discovered the daily life of this man, living in a shed, without running water, electricity or toilets, in the middle of the bush. The unique bond that Chris has formed with his babies and the kangaroos that live with him has greatly touched the public. He told the British newspaper The Times that he cares for his kangaroos as if he were their real mother. When he finds an injured joey on the side of the road, he adopts it, feeds it and cares for it before releasing it back into the bush to live its kangaroo life.
Chris Barnes Brolga went from being a hero in the shadows to a hero in the eyes of all, following the programme on the BBC. Broadcast in 2013, the documentary showed the British public and the world the exemplary action of this generous man. By giving Chris a voice and exposing his most modest living conditions, the report moved many. After creating a buzz in the UK with over 1.8 million viewers, Chris also became a star in his own country. His TV appearance was widely reported in several media.
This led to a wave of generosity with many donations made to the shrine and even marriage proposals for Chris! In this article from The Times, Chris explains that his orphaned kangaroos will always be his priority! Since, his living conditions and those of his kangaroos have greatly improved.
BBC Natural World documentary excerpts
Visit the Alice Springs Kangaroo Sanctuary
Thanks to the BBC programme and the donations generated, the sanctuary has been greatly improved. In 2015 Chris built Central Australia’s first wildlife hospital which provides specialist care for kangaroos. It is a place where many orphaned baby kangaroos are cared for and raised by volunteer carers until they are ready to be released back into the wild. Hundreds of kangaroos have been successfully rehabilitated and released.
Today, you can visit the Alice Springs Kangaroo Sanctuary, which is a 15-minute drive from Alice Springs. As the kangaroos sleep during the day, guided tours are only available in the late afternoon. Tour times vary depending on the month of the year, so be sure to check the schedule before booking. An ideal stop after a day out in the area. Tours last between 2.5 and 3 hours and cost $85 (adult). You can also make a donation or even sponsor a kangaroo to help this great initiative.
For information and to book a visit, visit the website: www.kangaroosanctuary.com
You can also follow the life of the Sanctuary on its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Be a hero too
If you are already in Australia and driving on the roads outside the big cities, you will have already noticed that all too often you come across dead kangaroo carcasses on the side of the road. When hit by speeding cars, unfortunately few survive the impact. Moreover, when they are females, the babies in their pouches also die as a result of the impact. However, it sometimes happens that the mother dies from the impact but not the baby joey! In these cases, you must intervene within hours of the accident to give the baby the best chance of survival.
You can collect the joey and take it to the nearest shelter which are found in many parts of Australia. Alternatively, take the joey to your nearest vet as all Australian vets are trained for these situations. This Australian Geographic article details exactly what to do. So the next time you see a kangaroo in a roadside accident, don’t hesitate to stop and check inside its pocket. This also applies to wombats and wallabies.
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”Arthur Ashe
We also advise to avoid driving at night in Australia, especially on country roads. This is when the kangaroos are out and about, and because of the dim (or no) lighting you may not see them. This is how most accidents happen. Pass this information on to others so that fewer accidents occur.
If you love animals, you can also volunteer at shelters. There are shelters in every state in Australia. You’ll learn a lot and take away some great memories.