Roger, the famously muscled marsupial who transformed from orphaned joey to meme-worthy alpha male, has died at the Australian kangaroo sanctuary he dominated. He was 12.
Long live Roger.
“It’s a very sad day here today, for we have lost our beautiful boy Roger,” sanctuary founder and operator Chris “Brolga” Barns said in a Facebook video posted Saturday.
The world might never have discovered this absolute unit had it not been for Barns finding a dead female red kangaroo by a highway in Australia in 2006. Inside her pouch was a tiny joey, hairless and helpless. Barns rescued him and named him Roger, after Roger Rabbit, for his amusingly oversize ears.
Roger flourished under the care of Barns, a former national park tour guide also known as “Kangaroo Dundee."
In 2011, Barns built his now 188-acre kangaroo sanctuary in Alice Springs, a remote town nearly smack in the middle of Australia. It had been Barns’s longtime dream to open such a haven — but it was also so that Roger “and a couple of his wives” would have a place to live, Barns said Saturday.
At the sanctuary, Roger continued to grow (and grow and grow) until he reached 6-foot-7 and nearly 200 pounds. He had finally caught up with his ears.
“Roger was our alpha male for many years,” Barns explained, in the understatement of the year.
Among the Kangaroo Sanctuary’s frequent social media posts, pictures of Roger jumped out immediately.
Other 'roos were featured for their doe eyes or the sight of them tucked into makeshift pouches or their propensity for cuddling on soft rugs.
Not so for Roger. Posts about Roger mostly highlighted his bulk. There was simply no getting around the fact that Roger was . . . seriously ripped.
“Roger’s favourite game is crushing his feed bucket!” exclaimed one post, in which Roger appeared to have effortlessly mangled a tin bucket with his brute strength.
In features about the Kangaroo Sanctuary, Roger could be seen chasing Barns around the grounds, threatening to kick or punch him. Barns explained that Roger, as an alpha male, saw him — and all other males, human or kangaroo — as a threat to his harem.
“Every day he wants to drive me out of his territory and away from the girls,” Barns told National Geographic Wild.
Barns once posted gash marks Roger had inflicted on his back with a “hug.” Another time, Barns injured his right knee trying to flee the massive marsupial. (“He wanted a piece of me, there’s no doubt about that,” Barns said then.)
Roger was often pictured standing erect, repeatedly emitting something of a chuffing sound whenever Barns got close enough to take a photograph.
“The clucking noise he is making is telling me to get away from his lady kangaroos,” read the caption on one video the sanctuary posted of Roger. “And the red on his neck is a scent that males rub onto trees etc to mark their territory.”
The posts turned Roger into a worldwide social media star, arguably the icon among Australia’s most iconic animals.
His physique inspired a host of Chuck Norris-esque memes and jokes.
Roger could beat ISIS all by himself, or at least take on the Mountain from “Game of Thrones.”
Roger Rabbit? More like Roger Schwarzenegger.
He was literally a mob boss, many noted.
“Roger did 8 years at Bronx Zoo.”
Did the other kangaroos even lift?
Occasionally, pictures displayed a softer side of Roger, such as when he was seen hugging a giant stuffed bunny.
“But it’s said that after the photo was taken he threw the bunny to the ground and tried to kick-box it, too,” according to WHAS 11 News.
In reality, despite his larger-than-life build, Roger was typical of a red kangaroo alpha male — and illustrated the dangers of not releasing a hand-raised male kangaroo into the wild before it was too late.
Because of an injury, Roger couldn’t be released into the wild earlier, Barns told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
And since Roger had grown up around humans, it was feared that he might be dangerous to people if he roamed free outside the sanctuary.
“It’s happened many times in zoos and wildlife parks, that any time a hand-raised animal that is not domestic has a wild nature,” Barns said, according to the Daily Mail. “Kangaroos are kick boxers. They want to fight. If they’ve grown up around people, they’ll want to fight people.”
In his twilight, though, Roger began to succumb to old age. The sanctuary revealed in a 2016 video that Roger was suffering from arthritis and failing eyesight, and had lost weight, becoming difficult to find sometimes in the bush.
In the video, Barns knelt next to “the once mighty Roger,” petting him softly like he had done more than a decade ago, when he had found him by the side of the road.
“I would have never been able to pet Roger like I am now, but he’s getting old . . . and old men don’t fight,” Barns said then.
His voice slowed as he reflected upon how Roger probably had only a year or two left — years that he hoped would be happy ones.
“He’s my best mate,” Barns said. “He’s my son. And I love him so much.”