Monday, July 10, 2006

Take a 'roo to work

Renting a car in Australia is pretty much like renting one anywhere. You plop down your credit card and license, decline the expensive additional insurance, and go on your way.

I picked mine up in Alice Springs. Before heading out to Uluru (that's Ayers Rock, in the old terminology), I stopped off at the kangaroo rescue center at Melanka's Backpackers.

For $5 (the money goes to kangaroo rescue efforts), you can go in and hold a joey whose mother has been killed. The couple who run it, Chris and Emma, explain that when a kangaroo is killed on the road (a common problem), often a joey is left alive inside the pouch. If the joey is left there alone, it will die of starvation. Their aim is to educate tour guides and travelers about this problem, to encourage them to bring joeys in to the closest refuge or even a roadhouse.

Th joeys then need 24/7 care ... which means that kangaroo care volunteers often have to take them to work. The 'roos need to be held in a bag ... even a pillowcase will do ... to replicate the experience they would have in the mom's pouch. Not until about six months do the joeys come out to hop about, and it's 11 months before they're ready to go back in the wild.

Visitors to the rescue center help out by holding the joeys for a few minutes. While you're rubbing their ears and getting a snuggle, you can look at photos of the 'roos in various cute poses. You see grimmer photos as well, of dead 'roos on the road. It's pretty heartbreaking, but at least you feel like you're doing something to help a little.

I held Briana, a hefty eight month old. Chris showed me a photo of her mom dead on the road, and told me how the dead 'roo had caused $2,500 damage to the motorcoach that hit her.

Seems that 'roos are unpredictable, like deer, and sometimes just bolt out in front of traffice.

Gruesome, and unnerving for someone about to drive the Outback. That extra insurance was starting to look like it might be worth the money. Next stop: a return visit to the car rental office.


Chris and his 'roo: Above, Briana, an eight-month-old joey, was rescued after her mother was killed by a car. Chris teaches travelers about kangaroo care in Alice Springs.


Wishful Thinking Ranch said...

The ranch could always use a 'roo if you happen to see an extra one lying around. Something to keep the llamas and goats company.

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