By Tui Benjamin
This is the adorable moment an orphaned baby kangaroo learned to stand for the first time – by holding onto her rescuer’s hand.
The heart-warming footage shows six-month-old joey Milly clutching the fingers of Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns, the carer she has imprinted on at The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs.
Chris, star of BBC documentary Kangaroo Dundee, saves joeys whose mothers have been killed and has spent the last six weeks carrying Milly around in a pouch on his body and waking every few hours during the night to bottle feed her.
Milly’s mother was killed when she was hit by a car near the Northern Territories sanctuary but the plucky baby roo was discovered still alive in the animal’s pouch by a passer-by.
Kangaroo expert Chris, 44, said: “At the moment Milly is in the pouch most of the time because she is still so small.
“But more and more as she gets bigger she is beginning to spend time outside the pouch for a couple of minutes a day so she builds strength in her legs and can start to learn to stand and balance and hop around.
“She has just started doing this in the past couple of days but as its all still new to her she tries to steady herself by holding onto my hand.
“Whenever I walk around she has started hopping after me – the joeys at the sanctuary all follow me around as if I was their mum and come over when I call them.
“Their normal instinct is to follow their mum around and their mums would help to steady them in the same way when they learn to hop.
“What you can see in the video is exactly the same as what Milly would be doing with her mum in the wild.”
Chris began running the rescue centre 12 years ago and opened the sanctuary in 2010 but has been rescuing kangaroos and joeys for the past two decades.
Animals are rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild if they can do or if not are left to roam the 188-acre sanctuary.
The adorable video, filmed over the weekend, shows Milly taking her first tentative steps while reaching out to hold Chris’ hand for support.
Milly is still bottle-fed every four hours, with Chris waking up in the night to feed her and five other tiny joeys who currently call the sanctuary home.
There are currently 50 kangaroos at the centre including 15 joeys of different ages and adults up to 11 years old.
All joeys mature differently but generally babies need full-time care for the first eight to nine months and Chris said Milly is doing well in terms of her development.
He said: “Milly’s mum was hit by a vehicle out on the road and she was found inside her dead mum’s pouch and brought to us as an orphan.
“We try and educate people that if they see wildlife on the road to stop where it is safe to do so and go and check if the animal has a pouch and if it does check inside it in case there is a baby in there.
“f there is take the baby out and hold close to you, preferably in a pillowcase or shirt for comfort and warmth, and take to the closest vet or wildlife carers group and take the animal well off the road.
“Joeys can survive for up to three days in their mother’s pouch, but sadly people see a dead animal and think there is nothing living there but often there can be a little Joey still alive.
“Unless they are found the babies have a terrible death from starvation. But kangaroos have such a strong pouch that often this can even withstand the blow of being hit by a car and protect the baby, it is quite amazing.”