The sun glowed a deep orange as it started to set over the red Outback dirt. The air was cool, and the sweet scent of rain still lingered in the breeze from the previous day. We all circled with anticipation as he strolled over to the fence. He stood tall at nearly 6’7″ under his dusty hat that has seen better days and let out a call to summon his kids. Several heads popped up from the low brush and began their slow hops over to the feed buckets, eyes still dropping with sleep.
The Kangaroos Sanctuary is home to over 40 rescued kangaroos. Brolga, or Kangaroo Dundee to many, first established the baby kangaroo rescue center in 2005 in Alice Springs. As word got out, he became the local expert of baby kangaroos called joeys. Soon he had a whole herd of joeys that he was nursing into the wee hours of the night. Since 2009, Brolga has built and managed the Kangaroo Sanctuary, an 188-acre wildlife sanctuary for rescued animals.
I first found out about the Kangaroo Sanctuary through Instagram, but many people know about the Sanctuary through the BBC UK/ National Geographic USA documentary, Kangaroo Dundee, that has aired in over 90 countries across the globe. Through the three seasons of shows, you can see Brolga build his kangaroo empire, raise many adorable orphan joeys, and see him get beat up by the alpha male, Roger, who matches Brolga in height and size.
It is estimated that there are between 50 and 60 million kangaroos in Australia. As an American, I find kangaroos to be adorable and exotic, but to many native Australias, they can be a nuisance. Just like groundhogs and deer in the United States, kangaroos are often hit by cars and left for dead on the side of the highway. Baby kangaroos live in their mother’s pouches for over eight months. When a female kangaroo is killed by a car, the joey often survives. These orphan babies are then found by caring motorists who will bring them to people like Brolga.
The Kangaroo Sanctuary is open to the public for tours on several nights of the week. In the Outback, kangaroos are nocturnal animals. Due to the high temperatures, especially during the summer months, kangaroos conserve their energy during the day by sleeping and eat during the cool nights. Kangaroos start to awake from their beauty sleep right around dusk when the tour starts.
The trip to the Kangaroo Sanctuary is not cheap at $85, but it is absolutely worth it as it has been one of my favorite activities thus far in Australia. A minibus will pick you up from your hotel or hostel and bring you to the Sanctuary that is located just outside of town. From there, you will be greeted by a smiling Brolga. He might even just hand you a baby kangaroo to cuddle as you step off the bus.
Brolga spent many years as a tour guide in Australia. He is extremely personable welcoming everyone with an interest and a smile. He’ll make you laugh, cry, and smile all in a matter of minutes. And you will most definitely say “Aww..” more times than you can count. Of course, it helps that Brolga is quite easy on the eyes, But, ladies, he’s a married man now.
After a brief overview of the Kangaroo Sanctuary and how it came to be, Brolga will grab the feed bucket, and you’ll enter the confines of the Sanctuary. A few hungry kangaroos were at the fence waiting for his feed bucket, but as soon as he let out his kangaroo mama cry, many more came hopping over for a late afternoon feast.
There are over 40 kangaroos of all ages and sizes living in the Sanctuary today and Brolga knows each one by name as only a mother would. It’s not uncommon to see one come over to him for a little hug and a kiss. The kangaroos living in the Sanctuary are used to human interaction and can be petted. But, he releases more into the wild than he keeps in the Sanctuary.
At the time of my visit in late August, Brolga had three baby kangaroos that we could hold. He also had about ten more in his Kangaroo Hospital that would be released back into the wild when they were old enough. And, you have no idea how badly I wanted to take the babies home with me! So stinking cute!
We spent a good two hours walking around the Sanctuary while Brolga introduced us to his kangaroo children. Most of the males, including Roger’s son, Monty, were in a separate pen until the local vet visited to castrate them. Since many of the kangaroos in the Sanctuary have bred with Roger over the years, Brolga must manage who breeds with who to ensure the health of the herd.
After a little game of hide and seek, we found Roger hiding in the brush. Roger is now nearing 11 years old and no longer acts as the alpha male. Even though he has significantly toned down his aggression, we still had to be cautious around him. I don’t know about you, but I personally wouldn’t want to mess with a 6’7″ 200-pound kangaroo. Roger has attacked several guests before and has sent Brolga to the hospital at least three times with black eyes and broken bones.
As we finished our final loop around the Sanctuary, the sun was fading fast behind the horizon leaving the sky lit in beautiful shades of purples and oranges. It couldn’t have been a better end to an enjoyable evening.
How to Become a Kangaroo Mom
Have you ever dreamed of being a kangaroo mother? Now’s your chance! Starting this summer with the grand opening of the Kangaroo Hospital, Brolga will be accepting volunteers to watch and feed the many little orphans that come through his doors. It’s super easy to start. You just need to take an hour long course with Brolga, and you’re on your way! I so wish I could do this as it would be a total dream job.
How to Visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs
Guided sunset tours are available on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights only. Tours are limited to 30 people, so book early as tours sell out fast. Tickets are $85 for adults and $45 for children. Discounted tickets of $59 can be purchased at YHA Alice Springs Hostel, but space is not guaranteed. The tour includes the cost of transfer to and from your hotel or hostel in Alice Springs to the Kangaroo Sanctuary. Wear closed toe shoes and bring your camera!
What to Do If You Find an Orphan Kangaroo
Spend any time driving along the endless highways of Australia, and you’ll probably see at least a few dead kangaroos on the side of the road. The first thing you should do is park in a safe spot before approaching the kangaroo to check its pouch. Only female kangaroos have pouches. If it’s a male, it will be pretty obvious. If you find a joey inside the pouch, carefully scoop the baby out and place it in your shirt, a bag, or pillowcase to keep it warm.
Do not give the kangaroo cow’s milk. It can kill it. Just offer the joey a little water and bring him or her to the nearest wildlife center or vet. They will know what to do with the baby.