Sunday, 3 February 2013

Chris Barnes – Kangaroo Dundee - Brolga

I've just watched a documentary on BBC2 about this amazing man in Australia, Chris Barnes, who devotes his life to kangaroos.

Mr Barnes, who is in his 40s, started his new life 20 years ago after rescuing three joeys and realising they couldn't go back to the wild.
He built his own sanctuary in the Outback, single-handedly digging a 2.5 mile long trench and fixing more than 4,000 metres of chain-mesh to 450 hand-hammered fence posts.
He said: 'I'm not a rich man, I never have been so I decided to try and raise a bit of money stacking shelves and washing buses.
He says: 'I find, as a carer, that we I have a much better success rate if I give the babies lots of love.' He lets them sleep in his bed, right up against him where they can benefit from his warmth and breathing and heartbeat. Even Bondi Vet Chris Brown didn't know that they need contact/ love. When Bondi Vet rescued a joey whose mother had been run over, he took it home but instead of keeping it next to him all night like a kangaroo mother, he wrapped it up in a blanket by itself. Surprise, surprise, the joey died. Of course, Chris Barnes loses joeys too, but I think that mirroring their mother and having as much contact as possible (he lets the joeys lick his mouth) gives them the best possible chance. 

What a spiritual, mystical man Chris Barnes is: when he a finds female kangaroo lying on the side of the road, killed by a car, he checks for a baby and says: "I often say to the mum who's lying there: 'I'll look after your baby'. To me, it's like resurrecting life from death". He also eschews guns, preferring to humanely trap the dogs who come prowling around his kangaroo reserve, then he takes them to the dog rescue centre in Alice Springs.

Chris Barnes said he'd like to meet a woman who understands that animals come first in his life - he's up feeding baby kangaroos at all hours of the day and night. Now that sounds right up my alley! The two activities that make me feel equally engaged and fulfilled are sitting in front of my computer writing, reading and researching, and working with animals as I did in Ecuador - feeding, cleaning, interacting. 

“I’m not interested in money or material possessions," he says in the documentary. As one commenter says: "he says he is not a rich man but in my mind he is far richer than the likes of donald trump etc." Hopefully the documentary will have increased publicity for him, and he will be able to afford running hot water. Twitter is now abounding with comments from women like "I want to marry Kangaroo Dundee. But only if he installs an inside toilet and a shoe rack", “My kind of man!” and "So cute! And the kangaroos. :-)"

Last month, I had the opportunity to wander around a shed full of goats who’d all had babies (most of them twins for some reason) and hold the kids. It was like holding puppies with hooves! So sweet with their soft pointy noses, stubby horns beginning to poke through, and their individual personalities – some docile and quiet, some feisty, chewing on your fingers with their gums. A few mothers had babies who’d died and a few babies had mothers who’d died. I will never eat lamb again. The golden goatherd dog who looks after them isn’t allowed to be touched by humans, which I think is misguided, and I sneaked in a few pats, which he absolutely appreciated. Every time I merely looked across the barn at him, he thumped his tail and smiled. He was so noble and wise.

POSTSCRIPT ~ Sunday 3 March 2013

Someone pointed out to me: The main reason that the whole female population of the UK (and other places) wants to descend on Kangaroo Dundee in Australia is that kangaroos are cute. Would he be attracting the same level of interest if his chosen speciality was, say, crocodiles?

Quotes from the South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony (1950-2012):

Every wild thing is in tune with its surroundings, awake to its fate and in absolute harmony with the planet. Their attention is focused totally outwards. Humans, on the other hand, tend to focus introspectively on their own lives too often, brooding and magnifying problems that the animal kingdom would not waste a millisecond of energy upon. To most people, the magnificent order of the natural world where life and death actually mean something has become unrecognizable.
~ Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer (2009, p. 249).

“Our inability to think beyond our own species, or to be able to co-habit with other life forms in what is patently a massive collaborative quest for survival, is surely a malady that pervades the human soul.”
― Lawrence Anthony

“The only good cage is an empty cage.”
― Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer

“But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those that we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.”
― Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer

“It is also vital that our relationship with nature and the environment be included in our education systems. This is not longer something cute or nice to do; it is now a singular imperative.”
― Lawrence Anthony, Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo

“Workable solutions for Earth are urgently needed. Saving seals and tigers, or fighting yet another oil pipeline through a wilderness area, while laudable, is merely shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
― Lawrence Anthony

“Why do we so mindlessly abuse our planet, our only home? The answer to that lies in each of us. Therefore, we will strive to bring about understanding that we are--each one of us--responsible for more than just ourselves, our family, our football team, our country, or our own kind; that there is more to life than just these things. That each one of us must also bring the natural world back into its proper place in our lives, and realize that doing so is not some lofty ideal but a vital part of our personal survival.”
― Lawrence Anthony, Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo

“The basic common denominator of all life is the urge to survive, and the survival of life on Planet Earth is achieved only as a shared initiative with and through all life-forms. Life is a joint effort; no 'man' separate from 'nature.' Homo sapiens as individuals and as species are as much a part of life's overall thrust for survival as any other species. As living organisms, we are part if the greater whole, and as such, we are embodied with exactly the same fundamental purpose: to survive. And to do so--as individuals, families, groups, and as a species--we have to live in dynamic collaboration with the plant and animal kingdoms in a healthy, life-sustaining environment.”
― Lawrence Anthony, Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo

“I have never understood the saying 'To think outside the box.' Why would anyone sit inside of a box and then think outside of it. Rather just get out of the box.”
― Lawrence Anthony


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