At first it seemed like a meme gone wrong, but a few years ago a six-foot-seven, 200-pound kangaroo became a global celebrity when photos of his buff, buff body basically broke the Internet.
As you would expect a bodybuilder-muscle-flexing kangaroo, holding a crushed metal bucket, to do.
Since then we’ve all been following “Roger’s” adventures at The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia’s Alice Springs. Sadly, those adventures came to an end earlier this month with news of his passing at the age of 12—a good age for a red kangaroo, whose life expectancy is about 12-15 years.
“It’s a very sad day here today,” said the sanctuary’s owner and operator Chris Barns in a video posted to Facebook. “Roger was our alpha male for many years. He grew up to be a kangaroo that people from all over the world have grown to love as much as we love him.”
The original Kangaroo Dundee
In 2013 BBC filmed a documentary, Kangaroo Dundee, highlighting the work Barns does at the sanctuary. In it, cameras follow Barns, a.k.a. “Brolga” as he rescues joeys and raises them among his mob of nearly 30 kangaroos in Alice Springs.
Interest in the film began in 2011, when Barns was “living out in the bush in a tin shack with his family of kangaroos.” He thought the publicity would be a good opportunity to raise awareness about kangaroos orphaned by highway accidents. Since then Barns has also released a biography and has become known worldwide by the Kangaroo Dundee moniker.
A life devoted to animals
Barns grew up watching the Australian television series, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, which followed the adventures of a boy and his intelligent pet ‘roo. By the time Barns was 10 he had an aviary, and at 17 years old he became a zookeeper. He also spent time as a tour guide before deciding to devote his life to kangaroos.
“Alice Springs is finding comfort and beauty in the remoteness,” Barns said in a follow-up to Kangaroo Dundee, One Plus One: The Road to Alice. “Home is the bush. Where I grew up, where my parents are, that’s home as well, but the home in my spirit is the bush.”
Visiting the sanctuary
Barns opened The Baby Kangaroo Rescue Centre in 2005, and followed that up by opening the 188-acre The Kangaroo Sanctuary in 2011. His goal is to educate the public while continuing to help rescue and care for orphaned animals. To do so he offers pre-booked guided sunset tours that kick off in the late afternoon when the nocturnal animals begin waking up.
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Meanwhile Barns also takes donations, which are put towards the rescue and care of the animals. With those donations he also built Central Australia’s first wildlife hospital, The Kangaroo Hospital, which opened in 2015.
Like many of the joeys that Barns saves, Roger was reared by hand after Barns discovered him on the side of the road in his dead mother’s pouch. As the animal grew bigger and more muscular he eventually became the pack’s dominant male. That meant he also saw Barns as a threat.
Naturally, Barns gave Roger plenty of space, telling Buzzfeed in 2015 that male red kangaroos need to be great wrestlers and kickboxers to survive, and they’ll engage in hand-to-hand combat to develop the necessary muscles.
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“There are no single girls in the bush,” Barns told the publication. “They’re all under the care of one dominant male, so these guys need to be tough to survive.”
Roger may be gone, but he leaves behind a legacy though his own babies—including one named Monty. According to The Sanctuary’s Facebook page Monty grew quickly; early on was already twice the size of females his age. If history repeats itself that means the world could fall in love with another muscular kangaroo of Roger’s stature in the very near future.
If that’s the case, then Barns had definitely better get to work on his kickboxing skills already.