On the Road to the largest Kangaroo Conservation Center outside Australia and an Australian Meat Pie!

G’day mate!  (I had to say that.) Another weekend is upon us, so TGIF!  The Bunkycooks have been On the Road again this week, so we are ready for the weekend.  How about you?

Since I was not able to post this Wednesday, I thought it would be appropriate to try to stay on some schedule and bring you a bit of fun for Casual Friday.  How about a little trip to see some kangaroos (or “joeys” as they are properly called in Australia) and a recipe for Australian Meat Pie?

We always seem to find the odd and unusual places when we are traveling, so how surprised do you think we were last Fall when we discovered that there were kangaroos in Georgia?  Who knew? We’re not talking just a few kangaroos…how about the largest “mob” outside of Australia!

I could get used to this…I think they like it here.

Roger and Debbie Nelson are the Founders, Owners and Directors of the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville, Georgia.  Dawsonville is about 60 miles north of Atlanta and their property sits on 87 acres of rolling hills and farmland.  I certainly had no idea until several months ago that there were a bunch of kangaroos that close by!

They have several types of native Australian birds at the Center.

They are in their 26th year of operating the facility, which was originally Nelson’s Twin Oaks Farm in Alpharetta, Georgia.  It was then a private exotic wildlife sanctuary.  Their Center (KCC) is supported by their own private resources as well as ticket sales to visit the facility and proceeds from the gift shop.

Roos in the bamboo!

More Roos in the bamboo!

Why did the Nelsons choose Georgia for their wildlife conservation work?  Debbie graduated from Emory, so she was was familiar with the area.  The warm Southern weather is a very important factor in raising and taking care of animals that are used to temperate and tropical climates.  Atlanta is also a major airline hub, so it makes it easy to ship animals to or receive animals from other parts of the world.

The temperate climate in Georgia is very much like Australia.

They have raised many types of of herbivore mammals and birds over the years, “including African and Asian Antelope, European and South American Deer, African, Asian and Australian birds and rare unusual African rodents known as Springhaas, for which they established the most successful captive breeding program in American zoos”.

So what would possess someone to breed and raise and help to preserve kangaroos?  Roger grew up on a farm in Connecticut and Debbie worked in a zoo in Florida, so being around animals and wildlife was certainly not new to them.  Over the years they became supporters of animal conservation programs and organizations that were working to save our wildlife.  Eventually, they decided to become more involved and began their own conservation facility.  You need to be really dedicated to have all of these kangaroos hopping around in your backyard! 🙂

They are just as curious about you as you are of them…

Their degrees and experience in education and science have helped in their creation and development of the Center over their 26 years.  They designed all of the living spaces and exhibits and work hard to make this not only a conservation effort, but also a learning experience for the people that visit the Center.  They have been featured on Good Morning America, written about in The New York Times and Smithsonian Magazine.

They are beautiful animals.

The Nelsons’ interest in kangaroos started in 1984 when we they got their first pair of joeys. They became extremely interested in marsupials (mammals with pouches that include the kangaroo species). Kangaroos at that time were known to have many health problems and they did not have very long lives living in captivity.  With their love of animals, they decided to change that and have been very successful.  They continue to share their knowledge of proper care and animal husbandry of marsupials living in captivity.  They have raised 12 different species over the 26 years.

This is one big and old boy joey!

An incredible fact that I was totally unaware of is that the killing of kangaroos in Australia, both legally and illegally, is the largest wildlife massacre in the world.  The only greater tragedy was the near extermination of the American bison in the 1800’s.

The wild deer are pretty friendly at KCC.

Since it has become very difficult to acquire kangaroos outside of Australia, the Nelsons believe it is important now, more than ever, to protect and conserve the breeding and raising of these animals.  In fact, they are currently working with other zoological organizations around the world and their conservation efforts, so their Center will not be open on a regular basis this season.  If you are interested in visiting KCC, be sure to check their website to see if they are allowing visitors.

This deer would have gone home with us! We were totally amazed to get this friendly with a wild animal outside their property.

In searching for an appropriate recipe with an Australian theme to include with this post, I came across a recipe for Australian Meat Pie.  Sorry…no Vegemite here!  This recipe is quite simple to prepare and very good!  These meat pies are traditionally served for lunch, but we had them for dinner with a salad and a Foster’s Lager (naturally).

Australian Meat Pies are quite tasty.

I used 2 large ramekins (12 ounces each) to make the meat pie.  You could use a pie dish (which is suggested), but I preferred having the individual pies that served two people.  We had one leftover for another meal, so we were able to enjoy it again!

Add a Foster’s Lager and a salad and you have a delightful supper!

Have a great weekend!

Australian Meat Pies


1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 cup water, divided
2 beef bouillon cubes (I use Herb-Ox)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 puff pastry sheets
1 egg, beaten with a little water


Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat with the onion.

Add 3/4 cup of the water, bouillon cubes, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, pepper, oregano, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Blend flour with the remaining 1/4 cup water until it becomes a smooth paste; add to the meat mix. Let cool.

Grease a pie dish and line with puff pastry (I used 2 12-ounce ramekins). Add the cooled filling mixture; brush edges of pastry with milk or beaten egg; put the pastry top on; press edges down with a fork. Trim edges and glaze top with milk or beaten egg.

Bake in a very hot oven, 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Adapted from Food.com