My wife, Sandra, and I are volunteers with Bush Heritage and this story took place when were caretaking at Charles Darwin Reserve (CDR) back in May 2005.
The first resident managers at CDR had a habit of looking after young abandoned kangaroos. They would care for them until they were capable of looking after themselves when they would hop the fence and go their way.
For several weeks however they would hang around the homestead or return from time to time as if to say hello. 'Red' was one of these kangaroos. Red had “hopped the fence” but would return from time to time.
He was timid and would not take food from our hands but could be tempted to come up to within 5 or 10 metres. He was a great favourite of Sandra and she would talk to him a lot. She would call out “Hi Red, we're back, come and say hello!”
Long conversations ensued as we tried to get him to come closer but to no avail. We had a good stay in May and were leaving the next morning. There was no sign of Red so Sandra just called out to the bush and told him we were leaving next day and said our goodbyes.
I woke early next morning and the sun was just about to rise. I climbed out of bed, stepped into the donga common area, and turned towards the sliding glass doors. I could not believe my eyes. There, standing not 50cm from the glass doors was Red, looking at me. I quietly stepped back into the bedroom and woke Sandra. “Quick” I said “You have got to see this”.
She groaned about the time and said it was too early to wake up. “Sandra,” I said “You have got to see this, just step outside the door”. She did and was stunned and delighted to see Red patiently waiting. It was difficult for a cynic like me not to conclude that Red had come to say goodbye. We were overwhelmed and humbled by his visit and have never forgotten it.
In January 2006 we were again looking after CDR as acting managers. Red had gone bush but we still think we spotted him a couple of times away from the homestead. 'Spider' and 'Rusty' however were at a similar stage of maturity as Red had been (i.e. they had grown up, jumped the fence, and were in the process of acquainting themselves with their natural habitat). They were a great pair and, like Red, could be enticed to within about 15 to 20 metres but no closer.
Once again we were leaving next morning at the end of our stay, called out our goodbyes to Spider and Rusty, and went to bed. I woke first, and being unsure of the time, pulled the curtain back a little to see if the sun was up. There, immediately outside our window (and there are 12 windows and 10 rooms), sat Spider and Rusty looking straight up at me. This was just too much. I could not believe it. How could they know we were leaving or even that we were in that particular room?
Sandra and I have never gotten over those two experiences. I said “If this happens a third time, I am going to have to revise some of my ideas about animals”. It didn’t, but that could be because those managers left and the practice of caring for young kangaroos went with them.
We think of Red, Rusty and Spider every time we go to CDR. How could we do otherwise?