The World's Only Baby Kangaroo Sanctuary Is in This Small Australia Town — and Visitors Can Feed and Cuddle the Adorable Animals

Take a peek inside the world's only baby kangaroo sanctuary, located in Alice Springs, Australia.

Baby Kangaroos at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia

Shaana McNaught/Courtesy of Tourism NT

Striding through the golden twilight in Australia’s Red Centre, Chris "Brolga" Barns seems every inch the outback cowboy. From his dusty hiking boots and weathered safari shirt to the wide-brimmed Akubra hat atop his six-foot, seven-inch frame, he looks ready to corral a colossal water buffalo, or wrestle a ferocious saltwater crocodile. The animals he has in his sights this evening, however, are far smaller and — let’s be honest — decidedly cuter.

Brolga (the nickname comes from a long-limbed crane) runs the world’s only baby kangaroo sanctuary out here in Alice Springs — the bohemian outback town in Australia’s geographical bull's-eye. Orphaned youngsters, or joeys, are brought to him on this 188-acre private nature reserve, where he heals and hand-rears them before returning the vast majority to the bush when they’re ready to fend for themselves at 14 months old. 

The sanctuary has grown from one man’s pipe dream into the most popular tourist destination in Alice Springs over the last 15 years, with the biggest attraction being the opportunity to feed, carry, and care for the tiny red kangaroos alongside the towering former zookeeper. 

A woman holding a swaddled baby kangaroos at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia

The Salty Travellers/Courtesy of Tourism NT

Baby Kangaroos wrapped up at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia

Jonathan Thompson

“This is Katy-Lou,” says Brolga, as he hands me a pink and white pillowcase containing a tiny joey. “She’s seven months old and has been with us for a few weeks, ever since her mother was killed by traffic.”

Most of the joeys share similar sad origins, Brolga explains, as Katy-Lou nestles into the crook of my arm, looking up at me with big, brown, melted-chocolate eyes. “Their mothers are hit by cars, but they survive in the pouch; then they’re brought to us.” 

Baby Kangaroos at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia

Shaana McNaught/Courtesy of Tourism NT

At the sanctuary, the joeys live in well-insulated cots, with their own pacifiers, bottle feeds four times a day, and adorable exercise sessions out in the yard, where they learn to bounce. 

Kangaroos are very, very sociable creatures, so we raise them in pairs,” says Brolga, as he shows me how to stroke Katy-Lou and rock her into a peaceful snooze. “A joey is never alone when it’s in the pouch, so we look to replicate that closeness of breathing and warmth by pairing each one with a buddy for the duration of their time here.” 

A woman hugging a kangaroos at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia

Helen Orr/Courtesy of Tourism NT

Katy-Lou’s buddy is named Wombat, and after we tuck them into a cot together, Brolga takes me for a stroll around the larger sanctuary. This is where the kangaroos who are too injured — or too humanized — to be released are put out to live safe, protected lives. 

According to Brolga, 99 percent of his marsupial pupils are successfully returned to the wild — but that dissident one percent still accounts for nearly 60 kangaroos today. As we walk through the creeping desert dusk, he calls out to them in what sounds like a gargling war cry, and a dozen come bounding across the tundra in pairs — eager for pets, ear scratches, and, in one case, a full bear hug. 

“They stay with their buddies for life,” says Brolga, as he identifies each of the duos by name, handing out treats. “They lost their mothers early, but at least they have each other now.”

Kangaroos at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Australia

Jewels Lynch/Courtesy of Tourism NT

Kangaroos are Australia’s most iconic animal, but they’re also our most common animal, especially here in the Red Centre,” he adds. “That’s why I built this sanctuary here — because it’s where it was needed. If you like remoteness, big blue skies, and untamed wilderness, Alice Springs is an incredibly attractive place to be — and this is my contribution to protecting that beauty.”  

For more on The Kangaroo Sanctuary, or to book a guided sunset tour that includes a joey feeding, visit To plan your trip to Australia’s Red Centre, visit

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles