“It is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week commitment, basically,” Mr. Brennan-Kuss, 68, said of the couple’s volunteer- and donation-supported efforts to save orphaned joeys. Each rescue is bottle-fed every few hours with a powdered-milk formula designed for kangaroos, which are lactose intolerant.
He does the day shift and Ms. Brennan-Kuss stays up through the night, feeding and washing dozens of towels used to line the pouches. Mealtime is chaotic. Tiny joeys, still clumsy hoppers, skitter around the kitchen floor, including Harvey, the joey Ms. Williams recently found.
Ms. Brennan-Kuss said the couple took in their first joey 15 years ago, and started their orphanage in 2008.
The orphanage has become an essential stop for many tour buses. In peak season, about 100 tourists come each day to view the indigenous art in the storefront before heading to the backyard to watch Mr. Brennan-Kuss feed a joey. The other baby kangaroos stay out of the limelight in the house adjacent to the gallery.
Before leaving the orphanage, tourists are given a guide to pouch-checking. It advises taking them either to the nearest vet or to the orphanage. Saving joeys isn’t for the squeamish. The pouch may need to be cut open and, if the joey is still attached, the nipple severed.
The guide also reminds good Samaritans to watch out for cars and road trains — semitrailers with three or four trailers and 70-plus wheels — that constantly thunder along the highway.
“I avoid them if I can,” said Mark Kurtzer, 50, a truck driver who regularly works the Stuart Highway, referring to kangaroos, dead or alive. On a Wednesday night a few weeks back, he was dropping off fuel at a gas station in Coober Pedy using a two-trailer, 44-wheel truck that takes a half mile to stop in an emergency.
He said he had hit four kangaroos in his 30-year career, but added that other truckers attest to colliding with two or three a year. “If I see roos, I blow the air horn and it normally scares them,” Mr. Kurtzer said.
For my mission, I roamed the highway for a few hours each day, usually after dawn, to check on the recent carnage. Kangaroos are most active at dawn and dusk. One day, I drove four hours north and back again, spotting only one unlucky kangaroo.
I should have pulled it off the road, but in reality, it was only a pair of ears and some other bits and pieces, and I couldn’t stomach going near it. When I passed the remains on the way back a few hours later, some iron-stomached driver had apparently done the job.
During the drive back to Adelaide, I spotted a dead kangaroo about 150 miles south of Coober Pedy. It lay whole in the middle of the road an hour or so after dawn. When I grabbed it by the tail to pull it off the road, it was still warm. The kangaroo was female and its pouch was lumpy and full.
I peeked into the pouch, assuming, like Homer and Bart in an old episode of “The Simpsons,” it would be plush with soft kangaroo fur. In reality, it was warm and a little slimy.
Curled up head to tail in the pouch was a joey. But it didn’t move. I tugged on its paw. Still nothing. At that moment, I was thankful for the butcher’s shop where I worked my first job, and a pair of medical gloves. After I did a decent tug, the furless joey, more than a foot long and weighing about a pound, slid out. Its head rolled with what I surmised was a broken neck.
It was sad and a little odd to be holding a dead baby kangaroo on the side of an empty highway. I paused for a few seconds, not knowing what to do. Digging a roadside grave seemed excessive. In an effort to provide some dignity, I placed the joey on the ground and rolled the mother onto it, knowing the crows and wedge-tailed eagles might arrive shortly.
I didn’t find a live joey, but I like to think I did some good by pulling a handful of dead kangaroos off the road. As Mr. Brennan-Kuss told me, taking the time “could maybe save a baby kangaroo, and maybe save a human life as well.”
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