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© Brinkley Davies

South Australian Marine Biologist and environmental activist, Brinkley Davies has spent the last five and a half months hand-raising a kangaroo joey, after its mother was killed in an unfortunate collision with her motor vehicle — something that is often unavoidable in rural parts of Australia. Saving Bunji’s life has been an inspirational and challenging journey for Brinkley and her partner Ty. Brinkley sheds some light on just what it takes to rear one of Australia’s iconic species.

Bunji is a Euro, also known as a Common Wallaroo or Hill Kangaroo. They are short, wallaby-like species found commonly along the cliff-lines here on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. Well known for their wombat like noses, fluffy fur, and stocky body shapes.

Rearing a kangaroo joey takes a lot of dedication, time, love and hard work! When Bunji was pink, known as a ‘pinky,’ she required around the clock care. This care included two to three hour interval feeding, toileting, pristine hygiene, moisturizing like she would have in the pouch, as well as, in my opinion, a heartbeat close to her at really young age so that she felt comfortable and not stressed. Bunji is extremely relaxed, and we believe this is because she has been exposed to things which otherwise may have caused her stress. She is now not at all phased by dogs barking, car noises, sudden noises, car rides, etc.

© Brinkley Davies

I exercise her by letting her graze around our large yard, which has a variety of trees, shrubs and grass. I also take her into the native scrub to see if she wants to have a hop around. Mostly she doesn’t leave our side, she prefers to lounge on Ohana’s (our dog) bed, although she has free reign of the yard and house all the time.

On an average day Bunji wakes up and is ravenous! She drinks a 100ml bottle in a matter of minutes, then she goes for a graze outside or goes back to sleep in her pouch. She then lets us know if she is sleepy or wants to be left out to cruise around and graze. Bunji still feeds about four times a day and her daily schedule depends on how hungry she is.

© Brinkley Davies

These things about Bunji will surprise you. She sleeps in bed with us. This might sound odd, but we have had little Bunj since she could not see at all, and the first thing she knew was our heartbeat which helped her to be relaxed and not stressed. Bunji sleeps next to me, I sleep like a log on my back, and she doesn’t make a sound all night. If we leave her in her pouch she will sleep soundly too, but often wake up wanting to move around. She is most comfortable where she has some warmth, and body heat has always made her sleep the best / longest. This will obviously change most likely when she grows a bit, or it may not, she certainly likes memory foam mattresses, though!

She is so special for so many reasons. She has changed my view on so many things, made me more driven, introduced us to a whole new world of appreciating kangaroos and our native fauna. Bunji is exceptionally affectionate, which I have heard about hand-raised Euros. I never thought an animal could be so loving and beautiful. When people meet her, they understand why we want to share her story more than ever. Her personality is so strong and shines the brightest. She is a little angel.

© Brinkley Davies

Introducing her into her natural habitat is illegal. You aren’t allowed to release hand-raised kangaroos in South Australia.

Kangaroos have exceptionally strong family bonds; females often stay with moms for life in the wild. Joeys throughout their years of development usually have a big pod including males to protect them from harm, starvation, the cold, and predators.

This doesn’t include the immediate harm of farmers and kangaroo ‘hunters’ who shoot kangaroos under the excuse of ‘pest control’ or simply as a free hunting activity. The chance of Bunji hopping up to the wrong person and getting shot, around these parts, is extremely high. And on top of all of this, the stress of attempting to reintroduce her to an alien world would likely result in her dying of stress on its own.

Bunji, has been hand-raised by us since she was 2.5 weeks old, she knows us as her safety, her parents, and will need the dedicated hands of us or an experienced carer for bottle feeding for at least another year to come. She will not reach adulthood until she turns three.

Bunji is safe, happy and has plenty of room to roam, although she prefers to lounge under the trees or with our pup. There are a few options such as the beautiful rescue sanctuaries and properties if ever we are in a situation that she might be better elsewhere. We may also consider moving to provide for her if we feel she needs more space.

© Brinkley Davies

Her progress will include the introduction of other kangaroos to help her socialise, although, ask any wildlife carer, Euros are not very social animals. They love their own company and are often quite solitary apart from their bond with one or two other beings, in this case, a carer. We have spent some time introducing Bunji to other joeys, and even pods and she has so far shown no interest, but time will tell.

We are lucky to have some fantastic carers from Fauna rescue as back-ups if ever we need to go somewhere unexpectedly.

We will do whatever allows Bunji to live a safe, happy and stress-free life. At the moment, she is sitting on my lap, listening to some birds, falling asleep.

She is part of our family which consists of Ty, who is an amazing, loving, caring, surfer, diver, and all-round super-human. Myself and Ohana, our mix-breed fluffball of a pup, who is now five months old and could probably outswim Michael Phelps.

© Brinkley Davies

Some favourite Bunji moments were when she started getting fur! What a relief and milestone that was.
When she first stood up by herself on the grass.
When she fell asleep on the bed with Ohana, the first night we brought Ohana home.
Every single time she feeds and goes into a food coma, so cute.

She likes Diving down your jumper, or into her pouch (of which she has many).
Cuddles, especially from Ty and I, she just absolutely loves it. She will sit at my feet until I put her on my lap if I am working at my desk or in the lounge until she gets patted or a head scratch!

She hates flies! She hisses at them, swipes her little paws at them, and gets frustrated that they even exist.

Her favourite food is Wombaroo, the golden formula which has gotten her from weighing 400g until now. She lives for it, scratches my legs while I am making it for her at the sink!

© Brinkley Davies

She also LOVES Sheoak needles, which are Australian Native and have a few different variations of species.

I hope her story inspires other people to care more about our native fauna and their welfare.
Kangaroos especially get nowhere near the respect and protection they deserve! They are our native emblem, yet are allowed to be “culled” by livestock farmers who already cleared all their native habitat, and are known especially down this way, to be shot by “hunters”.
I hope Bunji’s story inspires people to stop, and check the pouch; sometimes it is unavoidable that you have an accident involving wildlife or animals, but it is not unavoidable to check on the animals and do your best to get them to a carer or a vet.
I hope that Bunji’s story will also help people around the world to understand the beautiful, loving and family orientated nature of these animals.

© Brinkley Davies

I couldn’t have done it without Ty. We have raised Bunji together since the moment we got her. He is amazing, and we are both so proud of little Bunji, and how far she has come.

When I see kangaroos in the wild, I think I love you, I understand you, and I am on your side.

Love this story? Take a look at Brinkley’s non-for-Profit Balu Blue Foundation.