Chris
Chris "Brolga" Barnes holding an orphan kangaroo joey at his sanctuary near Alice Springs. Andrew Graham-Brown

Outback cheer: Kangaroo Dundee's Christmas with the joeys

CHRIS "Brolga" Barnes will have plenty of milk on hand for Christmas tomorrow, but it won't be for Santa or his reindeer.

The wildlife carer known as "Kangaroo Dundee" will spend the holiday like he does most days - looking after orphaned joeys and juvenile kangaroos at his sanctuary outside Alice Springs.

"With so many orphaned joeys to care for, finding the time to celebrate Christmas can be hard," Barnes told APN.

"Much like any parent, the kids come first. So regardless of the date, my day revolves around their feeds every four hours. I currently have nine joeys in my care so I'll go through 54 bottles of milk just on Christmas Day."

Barnes has dedicated his time to saving orphaned joeys for the past 10 years.

In 2005, he was working as a tour guide leading a group out to Uluru when he came across a dead kangaroo with a live baby in its pouch.

After rescuing the joey, Barnes quit his job and started a kangaroo education centre and rescue service in Alice Springs.

It took six years of hard work to turn the vacant bush block into a facility to support Barnes, his marsupial charges and a visitor centre.

The sanctuary has saved more than 200 joeys.

Chris
Chris "Brolga" Barnes has a particularly close relationship with this kangaroo called Ellaat. Andrew Graham-Brown

"The kangaroos are my family. I've raised a lot of them since they were babies," he said.

"I do feel like part of the mob. I don't see myself as the one who puts out a bit of food. I mingle with them.

"They all have their own distinct personalities. Some you can get close to, some you can't. Some want to go back to their true, wild instincts. I really respect the kangaroo - and all animals really."

When a BBC documentary film crew came knocking on his door two years ago, Barnes couldn't pass up the offer to raise awareness for orphaned kangaroos.

Producers nicknamed him Kangaroo Dundee, also the title of the show, and when it aired in the UK he received thousands of dollars in donations, as well as a few marriage proposals.

"Like most guys around the 40-mark I've had girlfriends and stuff, but in the show they made me out to be this lonely guy out in the bush when that's not true at all," he said.

"I just love the adventure of it.

"One woman was trying to set me up with her daughter and then another daughter was trying to set me up with her mum.

"I went from getting one email a month to getting 600 a day. It's nice recognition thank you very much, but I'll go on with my life."

Barnes is currently building Central Australia's first wildlife hospital on the 36ha site.

Earlier this year he was named a state finalist for Australian of the Year for his tireless work.

"The TV show is a way to get through to people that we can respect animals a little bit better," he said.

"There are so many of them, we can forget about their welfare."

Kangaroo Dundee airs Tuesdays at 7.30pm Qld, 8.30pm NSW on Nat Geo Wild.



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