Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live with a kangaroo… whilst balancing a career as a professional surfer and free diver? Or why it’s so important to rescue and care for wildlife in Australia? If so, you might want to read the new book by Brinkley Davies (pronouns: she/her), a marine biologist, professional surfer, free diver, wildlife advocate and founder of Balu Blue Foundation, a non-profit that aims to educate and inspire people to protect and enhance the environment and wildlife. Brinkley shares the story behind Saving Bunji, a young rescue kangaroo who became her close friend and inspiration.
Brinkley grew up in South Australia, surrounded by nature and animals. She was obsessed with wildlife from a young age, and spent a lot of time in the ocean, where she developed a fascination with marine life. Alongside her passion for wildlife, Brinkley also grew up surfing competitively, and later became a professional surfer and free diver.
Brinkley always knew she wanted to work with animals, so she studied marine biology at university and volunteered with wildlife as much as she could. She also said yes to a lot of opportunities to travel and work with different animals and conservation projects around the world. She explained –
“I volunteered at RSPCA and for marine wildlife rescue and was doing what I could to be involved with animals from a young age. I really wanted to get as much experience as I could literally just because I loved spending time with animals.”
Through her experiences, Brinkley realized that she wanted to start her own foundation to pursue her specific goals and tell her story in her own way. She founded Balu Blue Foundation in 2016, with the mission to educate and inspire people to support widespread protection and enhancement of the natural environment across Australia.
THE STORY OF BUNJI
One of the most memorable and impactful experiences that Brinkley had was rescuing Bunji, a young kangaroo joey who was orphaned after her mother was hit by a car. Brinkley and her ex-partner were driving on a remote country road when unfortunately he hit a kangaroo. They pulled over to check if there was a joey in the pouch, and found Bunji, who was only a young pinkie kangaroo joey and required a huge amount of care.
“Growing up surfing in remote country Australia, you see a lot of wildlife getting hit by cars. It’s such a regular occurrence. And I used to take so much caution to drive slowly and avoid certain times of the day, but sometimes, it is unavoidable.”
“Although her mum sadly passed away from the incident, Bunji was a survivor. And the best part about that story is that a lot of people don’t stop at all. They hit wildlife and keep going.”
“While some situations are unavoidable, it’s never unavoidable to stop and check.”
In that moment, Brinkley made the decision to commit to saving Bunji. She had some experience with wildlife caring and although she knew it would be a challenge, Brinkley stepped up to the challenge. The name “Bunji” means close friend in local language on Warlpiri country in Australia – and that’s exactly what she became for Brinkley. She fed her, cleaned her, cuddled her, and played with her. She also introduced her to her other pets, such as her dogs and cats, and taught her how to interact with them. She also took her on adventures, such as surfing, camping, and hiking in nature.
“And from then on, the story just developed, she became such a huge part of my life – and it was just incredible learning all about how they are as an animal and the bond we formed.”
Bunji grew up to be a healthy and happy kangaroo, who loved Brinkley. She also became famous on social media, as Brinkley shared her photos and videos with her followers, who were amazed by her story and personality. Bunji was later rehomed successful to other wildlife carers with enough space for Bunji and other rescue kangaroos. Bunji became a symbol of hope and inspiration for many people, who learned more about kangaroos and wildlife through her.
“One thing that other wildlife carers would tell me often is, these kangaroos only bond with one person – which will make it hard to release or rehome – and I felt that so hard.”
“In the first year or so we were inseparable. It was like I had another little me as a kangaroo and that bond still lives on now. She doesn’t run up to anyone else, which was one of the hardest parts about transitioning her. But I did it at the age where she was young enough to bond with other kangaroos.”
This journey forms the basis of Brinkley’s book, Saving Bunji. Brinkley concludes –
“It’s a lifelong bond – what they remember and everything is incredible. When I visit her, she sees me and races up to give me a big hug and hangs out for five or ten minutes. Then she heads back to the paddock and her little boyfriend.”
GETTING INVOLVED IN WILDLIFE CARE
Brinkley’s story with Bunji is not only a heartwarming and captivating tale, but also a valuable lesson for anyone who is passionate about caring for wildlife. In Australia, Brinkley has connected with a large and passionate community of wildlife carers but recognizes these people often aren’t well connected or supported despite how much work they do for wildlife. She explains –
“Some of the people I’ve met through wildlife care have just been some of the most giving and selfless people that give their whole life to the point where they often look after their animals, way better than their own health and their own sleep and their own finances.”
“It’s really inspiring, but it’s definitely an area that doesn’t have anywhere near enough support.”
Brinkley wants to encourage people through her book to stop and check the pouches of animals that have recently been hit on the roadside (when safe to do so). Even if you don’t have the capacity to care for the animal the rest of its life, you can still be the first responder and make the difference between survival and death for that animal.
Brinkley’s advice for wildlife rescue and care is simple –
- Always stop and check the pouch
- Save the number of local wildlife carers or vets in your phone in case you encounter sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.
“You can ring up and even if you’re several hours from someone helping you, they’ll talk you through what to do in the moment over the phone.”
- Keep some basic equipment in your car for wildlife rescue (such as a pillow case, a cardboard box, a towel and a pair of scissors).
- You don’t need a degree to be a wildlife carer – and there’s free training available through many organizations including WIRES.
It’s all about trying your best to make a difference – and there is lots of support and information out there for aspiring wildlife carers – much of which is addressed in Brinkley’s book, Saving Bunji. Advice aside, the book that will touch your heart and open your mind as a story of love, friendship and adventure.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Want to hear more from Brinkley? Tune into the podcast or follow her adventures on Instagram @brinkleydavies. You can also find out more about the Balu Blue Foundation on their website as well as Brinkley’s personal website where you can find out more about her own jewellery line, Bandicoot by Brinkley, the guided marine experiences she runs and her world as a professional surfer, free diver and wildlife lover. To get your own copy of Saving Bunji the book, visit Booktopia for shipping within Australia and Readings for international deliveries.
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