BROLGA TO THE RESCUE
Not many people would be game to look a 2m tall, dominant male kangaroo in the eye. Not many people could.
At about 200cm, Chris “Brolga” Barnes is in the unique position of facing off daily with Roger, the boss of a kangaroo mob who live at his sanctuary outside Alice Springs.
“I’m not average height,” says Barnes, 42, star of the show Kangaroo Dundee.
“So when I’m standing up with my big male kangaroo, when he’s back on his tail, I’m looking him in the eyes.”
Barnes is there to nurse sick and injured kangaroos and while he willingly plays with Roger, the biggest of his brood, he’s aware of the danger.
“You don’t want to get within kicking range of Roger,” he says. “Just his hands can scratch you up badly.
“Recently, he gave me six stitches in the groin. You’ve got to understand that big male kangaroos have the potential to disembowel you.”
It’s a solitary existence for Barnes, a former tour guide who has lived up north since 2005. With only the barest necessities in his home, he runs a kangaroo education centre and rescue service which has saved more than 200 joeys.
Thanks to his unusual line of work, he was a finalist for the Australian Of The Year in 2014, he’s written a book, and the rangy animal activist has been painted for the Archibald Prize.
But none of this impresses the tiny joeys, who he nurses in pillow cases, a substitute for their mother’s pouch.
“Amy, Ella, Abby, Molly … they are my children, I grow them up as my children with all the love,” Barnes says. “I feel that almost by giving them a human name it helps you associate with them more.”
Despite his family of roos, it’s a one man show for Barnes. And while he enjoys human company, he doesn’t miss it.
Kangaroo Dundee’s Barnes and a joey.