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JOSH COX

Why I Started Reptile Encounters

As a society we are disconnected from nature. The advent of technology has changed the way we live, it has changed the way we interact and it has jammed a wedge between us and nature. Children, from the time they are born, are now inundated with technology. It has gone well beyond the 30 minutes of watching Playschool that was the norm a generation ago.

At the same time we have been disconnected from our world and nature, the state of the planet has declined at quite a rapid rate. The threat of climate change is at our door. We are on the precipice of a mass extinction. Now if as a society we are disconnected from nature, we are not going to have the impetus to want to protect the planet.

I started Reptile Encounters because I want to give students the chance to connect with nature. I believe that people need to have that ‘inspire’ moment to be able to make the connection for themselves. By meeting animals in the flesh we engender a respect for our environment and equip students to make a difference!

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught. (Baba Dioum, 1968.)

MELBOURNE’S MOBILE ZOO

Reptile Encounters is Melbourne’s Mobile Zoo. Specialising in educational programs for the K-12 market. Our programs have been running for the past ten years and are of the highest standard. Reptile Encounters has been recognised as a finalist in the Australian Small Business Champion awards for the past two years running.

Our 13 memorable, entertaining and educational wildlife incursions will excite and inspire students and teachers to reconnect with the world around them. The Reptile Encounters experience continues after the show with students demonstrating their learning with tailor-made assessment criteria. Reptile Encounters aims to create a legacy with students and staff, in the hope that they will take steps at home to make a difference. With lasting memories of your Reptile Encounters experience your students will have improved their learning outcomes, they will be happy & healthy, and they will be connected with the natural world, sending them on the path to become better humans.


INSPIRATION.
EDUCATION.
CONSERVATION.

MEET OUR TEAM

Josh Cox

Director

Josh Cox
Director

Josh Cox author of ‘Better Humans’(coming in 2017), public speaker and conservationist, is the Founding Director of Reptile Encounters. For as long as he can remember, he has been passionate about wildlife and its conservation, so he strives to be a voice for animals as they cannot speak for themselves. He has spent many holidays visiting natural parks and zoos around the world, and has a Bachelor of Medical Science from La Trobe University.

In conjunction with his love of animals, Josh also grew up playing loads of sport, from tennis and Australian rules football to little athletics. This drove a keen interest in health and fitness, which is why he ended up studying Medical Science.

Andrew Cox

Customer Service

Andrew Cox
Customer Service

Andrew feels that many of Australia’s animals are unique particularly in the way that they connect humans with a very distant past. His favourite animal, the platypus, is a great example of this connection! The platypus is also his favourite because it is so unusual, odd, and interesting compared to other creatures. Fortunately, due to great efforts to clean up and reduce pollution, more of these creatures can be found locally in our creeks and rivers.

Andrew’s interest in wildlife and conservation first began more than 20 years ago. He has always cared about animals and their well-being! One of his biggest concerns is the effects of climate change on the planet, and the impact they have on the ecosystems where these animals live. While most of his life has been spent using his Bachelor of Science and Education in teaching in the areas of Math and Physics, Andrew now handles the Customer Service duties for Reptile Encounters.

Uta Meyer

Head of Inspire

Uta Meyer
Head of Inspire

Uta started completed a BSc in Biomedicine in South Africa and had a stint in sales before launching her teaching career as an Environmental Educator and Program Coordinator in Dubai a decade ago. This inspired her to sign on to a Master of Teaching at the University of Tasmania and she then taught Maths and Science in a Special Education setting for 4 years.

After being part of the RE team on and off since her move to Melbourne in 2014, she got back board once again in 2018 to pursue her burning passion for Environmental Education. Uta believes that educating future generations about the environment and instilling a love for nature is paramount to ensuring they can keep experiencing the wonders of the natural world for many generations to come.

Uta has high hopes for 2019, including seeing RE’s new Inspire Package being implemented in several schools across Melbourne.

Kara U’Ren

Senior Executive Wildlife Ambassador

Kara U’Ren
Senior Executive Wildlife Ambassador

Kara’s love for wildlife and conservation began in her childhood, visiting attractions such as Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo with her family. Her interest in the natural world continued through her school years, and undertaking a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Biosciences helped turn this love into a career! Her favourite animal is the Australian Sea Lion; a highly intelligent and powerful predator with many complex behaviours!

She loves introducing audiences to Australian wildlife that they haven’t met or even heard of before, and seeing their smiling faces when they get to touch or hold an animal for the first time. Kara also loves to travel and visit different zoos and aquariums around the world, as well as journey into the wild to see the animals in their natural environment.

Dan Mangano

Senior Executive Wildlife Ambassador

Dan Mangano
Senior Executive Wildlife Ambassador

Dan has been passionate about Australian wildlife since he was very young, spending countless hours chasing lizards and frogs around his local creek. He got his first Shingleback Lizard at the age of 12, and after that there was no stopping him! Dan is especially interested in endangered species and is focused on keeping up to date with conservation efforts to save at-risk Australian species. He is dedicated to educating the public on what can be done to preserve our unique Australian wildlife.

Dan also keeps an ever-growing menagerie of animals at home, and has kept and bred numerous species of Australian native birds, lot of reptiles, and even hopping-mice! He has completed a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Biosciences, and in his spare time enjoys getting out into the bush and observing wildlife in its natural habitat.

Tia Mellios

Wildlife Ambassador

Tia Mellios
Wildlife Ambassador

Reptile Encounters legend Tia has had a deep and long standing connection with nature that she has built up through travel, volunteering and visiting sanctuaries, as well as being outdoors – whether putting on a snorkel or climbing a mountain. And of course, at home Tia keeps a crew of her own scaly, feathery and crawly critters!

A long-serving member of the team, Tia has been a loyal and key component of the RE family since the beginning of 2017. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Monash University, and says she utilised her degree “to explore the workings of our organic planet and our entanglement with it.”

Tia fits like a glove at Reptile Encounters, explaining, “I have been wildly passionate about the whole of the natural world from before I can remember. Not only do I get to work with creatures that leave me in awe every day but I get to chase my dream of conservation of the environment by sharing the wildlife that beyond inspires me.”

Tia has heaps of amazing stories from her time at RE, but picks out one truly special moment. “I would say the most out of this world thing that has happened at Reptile Encounters for me was witnessing our reptile babies hatch. I spent over 3 hours watching a frilled-necked lizard emerge from its shell in total fascination, now that is extraordinary.”

When it comes to working with and conserving our natives, Tia is super-passionate: “Australia boasts some of the most unique and enchanting animals on the planet, yet we are one of the top countries responsible for over 50% of global biodiversity loss.”

And she thinks a huge amount of that is as a result of lack of knowledge across the general public, rather than malintent, adding: “Most people don’t know what’s nesting right under their noses in the tree, or what’s beneath that rock in their backyard. If you are lucky enough to work with these natives, it is crucial that you share their wonder with others. If one doesn’t know what an endangered growling grass frog is, or that it’s living in the creek by the back fence, why would they think to protect it or even appreciate it.”

On the subject of her favourite RE animal, it’s another tough choice for Tia. “I don’t think I will ever be able to love only one animal, I find beauty and intrigue in all of them. I can say however I have forever had a soft spot for cold blooded critters and birds. Especially one bird – Connie the Barking owl, I adore him and could watch him all day long.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2019 and beyond, Tia says she wants to “keep soaking in all that knowledge, get my voice out there for our fellow animals that don’t have one, to inspire others’ minds to treasure our wildlife as much as I do and therefore strive to conserve it.” That’s the spirit we say!

Jess Wendel

Wildlife Ambassador

Jess Wendel
Wildlife Ambassador

Growing up with kangaroos, wombats, koalas and various bird species just outside her backdoor – and loving every minute of it – Jess is a true Aussie country girl! But Jess doesn’t only love the country life, she is also a huge fan of the underwater world and takes regular trips to Melbourne’s best snorkelling spots.

With this background it was only natural Jess chose to earn her degree in Animal and Veterinary Biosciences. She graduated at La Trobe University Bundoora in 2017, the same year she began as volunteer at the RE team.

Jess loves her job here and says, “introducing kids and adults alike to Australia’s fluffy and scaly friends; making them laugh and smile, is the best feeling.” She also cares hugely about conversation and environment education: “Australia has such a unique and diverse range of animals that no one knows about and may possibly never see again – so learning about them and then educating people on how to help save them makes me so happy and helps me do my part for conservation in Australia. Which is very important to me.”

Jess tells a very funny story about the most outrageous thing that has happened to her at RE. Sammy, our resident noisy Red tailed black cockatoo, is not always the happiest to be woken up in the morning. On that morning he was meant to be accompanying Jess to a Primary School for an Incursion, but he had other ideas… Jess had to chase him around the warehouse for over an hour with him flying to the highest points in the roof where poor Jess couldn’t get close to him! Sammy got his way in the end – with Jess waving the white flag, our very,very cheeky cockatoo had the last laugh!

The importance of working with Australian natives is most definitely not lost on Jess. She thinks it’s vital to work with them because, “they are so unique and a lot of our fauna and flora is not found anywhere else in the world.” Jess believes, as a consequence of this, “not many people know of them or have seen them before, which is causing an unnecessary amount of endangered and threatened species. I believe that introducing them to the public could bring our focus back to the natural world not the technological. Which could help us to fight extinction in Australia.”

Jess has a great connection to Connie the Barking owl. She loves his cheeky side and how he makes everyone laugh with his many strange antics and funny faces. Connie makes Jess me smile whenever she sees him and luckily, she says, “he’s very affectionate – he loves a good cuddle!”

Andrew Coates

Wildlife Ambassador

Andrew Coates
Wildlife Ambassador

Ever since Andrew was really young he’s been fascinated by animals and wanted to learn all about them. Driven by this desire to learn, he studied Zoology at Melbourne University, and eventually completed his Masters Degree in 2015. For his Masters project he travelled up to Queensland to look at Geckoes (very cute) and their parasites (very gross).

He loves to teach people about how amazing animals are and how we can work together to help protect them. Andrew thinks all animals are amazing but if he had to choose a favourite it would have to be the octopus because they are so bizarre and intelligent; it’s like they could be aliens from another planet!

Caitlin Jones

Wildlife Ambassador

Caitlin Jones
Wildlife Ambassador

Caitlin has been an animal lover since she was an ankle-biter, with many of her early animal experiences coming when she was travelling around Australia with her family. A fondly remembered trip to Central Australia introduced Caitlin to our range of native reptiles, whilst another to Tasmania gave her an appreciation of the local marsupials, including the endangered Tasmanian devil!

But Caitlin’s most profound animal experience was on a holiday in the Kimberley, where she discovered frogs living in the toilet cisterns at a caravan park, and thereafter left no cistern unchecked!

Caitlin is passionate about promoting the small things we can do to help our environment, such as proper waste disposal. She is currently studying Environmental Engineering to better understand the efforts needed to create a more sustainable future.

Shaldon Moroney

Wildlife Ambassador

Shaldon Moroney
Wildlife Ambassador

Shaldon was born an animal lover and has always thrived in caring for them and being amongst them in their natural habitat.This love for breeding, caring for, and training animals was instilled in a very young Shaldon, as he spent countless hours with his family’s treasured racing pigeons.

Combining his love for the outdoors with his passion for animals, as a whipper snapper Shaldon would go into wild to catch blue tongues, remove their ticks, and release them back into the wild. Growing up, his love for animals evolved and grew to such an extent he bred and hand-reared his own stunning rainbow lorikeet – Lori! Now Lori holds a huge piece of Shaldon’s heart: she’s his pride and joy.

The next step for Shaldon was Monash University, where he’s a student of Zoology. It was here he ran into another member of the RE team during field studies on the beautiful Heron Island. That meeting prompted Shaldon to become a popular Wildlife Ambassador here at RE, and he has been able to continue his childhood passions of training and caring for a range of exotic animals.

While birds still keep a big part of Shaldon’s heart, he strives to better understand all animals – both in captive and wild settings.

Fay Gregory

Volunteer Coordinator

Fay Gregory
Volunteer Coordinator

Fay grew up in far away shores of South Africa, and has always been in love with the animal kingdom – for as long as she can remember she wanted to work with animals. On moving to Australia, Fay instantly fell in love with the continent’s amazing flora and fauna.

With a rich and diverse background – including veterinary nursing, animal management, law enforcement, and dairy farming in New Zealand – Fay has been part of the Reptile Encounters family since October 2018.

She loves work at Reptile Encounters because of her great passion for Australia’s native wildlife. As part of the family here she finds she can not only fulfil her long standing dream of working with native wildlife, but also “work for a company that is so focused on making this world a better place”.

Fay has a tale to tell about the most outrageous thing that has ever happened to her at RE… She was almost eaten alive by Holly, our friendly Olive Python! (Note from ed: for all the parents out there raising an eyebrow – don’t worry – this is a slight exaggeration and all Reptile Encounters shows are 100% safe!)

Fay believes it’s important to work with Australian Natives, “because they are so wonderfully unique to this world. And it’s so important to educate people about our incredible wildlife, so that we can maintain their natural habitats and enjoy the fact that they will be around for a long time to come.”

A true team player, Fay’s big goal for 2019 is to help our wonderful volunteers get the most out of working at Reptile Encounters.

Gabbie Montoya

Wildlife Ambassador

Gabbie Montoya
Wildlife Ambassador

Gabrielle joined the RE family as a volunteer just over a year ago and is currently studying diligently to graduate in Animal and Veterinary Biosciences at La Trobe this May.

Prior to volunteering with RE she completed work experience with a vet, and she aims to gain more experience with and knowledge about some of Australia’s amazing natives. Her time here has also helped her learn how to overcome her trepidation towards handling or interacting with different animals.

One of Gabrielle’s craziest experiences at RE was when she nearly lost one of our Olive Pythons! Holly – the runaway snake in question – didn’t appear to appreciate having to have a clean enclosure that day and proceeded to make life so difficult for Gabrielle that she let her go. Holly retreated and camped out under a stack of enclosures and would only come out for her one true love – Josh!

Caring deeply about Australian Natives, Gabrielle thinks it’s a tragedy that they are depleting in numbers due to environmental issues, climate change, and other factors. Over the coming year, she’s hoping to further her knowledge of natives and get a job in the field of Animal and Veterinary Biosciences to make the most of her degree and experience.

Gabrielle is unequivocal about which animals she has the deepest connection to – BATS! But she also wants to make a special mention of Liv, our Olive Python, and Thor, our Coastal Carpet Python. And Dave our Long-nosed Potoroo. And Pedro, our handsome Eclectus Parrot. She just can’t pick one!

Jeanette Frehley

Slithering

Jeanette Frehley
Slithering

Jeanette is a bonafide snake and reptile enthusiast: she’s owned and worked with them for 8 years, and to this day is still as crazy about our stunning Aussie natives today as she was on her very first!

Her ongoing fascination and love for snakes led her to complete several native husbandry courses, and she was lucky enough to combine this with learning from expert Herpetologists, both in Australia and overseas.

Jeanette embodies the RE attitude and philosophy in many ways. One of them is her belief that, “the journey of education never ends – we have so many wonderful animals in Australia to keep learning about.” She is a passionate supporter of encouraging engagement with wildlife and conservation in youngsters: “every year, there is a new generation of children in which to instill and encourage the ongoing importance of our environment and ecosystem.”

Elaine Brock

Monitor Keeper

Elaine Brock
Monitor Keeper

Elaine keeps and breeds skinks and is absolutely in her element working with the bigger reptiles, especially the monitor species. A keen member of the Victorian Herpetological Society (VHS), Elaine is also a dab hand at writing and regularly contributes to their online publication ‘Odatria’. A passionate advocate for reptile education, she is a friend of Lilydale High School’s Reptile House.

On top of her writing, Elaine is a regular exhibitor at the VHS Amphibian and Reptile Expo. Juggling so many reptilian shaped plates, it’s no surprise Elaine is well known within the reptile community!

As a tiny child Elaine was mesmerised by a large Lace Monitor crossing the road in Montmorency, and one of her earliest memories is of catching and studying the Delicate Skinks living in her Grandmother’s yard in Lower Plenty.

Since beginning work with Reptile Encounters in May 2016, Elaine has been involved in training and enrichment programmes for a large collection of Yellow Spotted Monitors, and hopes to broaden her knowledge to include husbandry and handling techniques of Crocodilian species. A true reptile obsessive, whenever she is not caring for them she can’t help but spend her time planning her next acquisition!

Sam Ljiljak

Godzilla

Sam Ljiljak
Godzilla

From a young age, Sam has been fascinated by the natural world. His fondness for reptiles stems from a love of dinosaurs (and Godzilla) and has only grown since he started volunteering at Reptile Encounters. Sam has been helping Reptile Encounters look after their broad array of wildlife for over a year and enjoys the opportunity to work with such a diverse variety of animals. He has completed a Bachelor of Biological Science with Distinction, majoring in Zoology.

Carl Gustus

Dragons

Carl Gustus
Dragons

A younger and much-loved team member, Carl has long harboured an intense interested in wildlife. It was this that brought him to the Young Ranger Program at Moonlit Sanctuary, which he joined throughout most of his school holidays in primary school.

As Carl moved on to high school, his interest in wildlife burned brighter and – as he was lucky enough to attend a school with its own sanctuary – he had many opportunities to explore and develop it. Carl has many happy memories of countless weekends and camps he spent helping with and learning about wildlife at the likes of Mt Rothwell biosphere.

Carl just couldn’t get enough time working with wildlife and volunteered at different locations, including Warawee Wildlife Centre and The Briars, to build his experience throughout his last two years in high school. Alongside this he completed his Cert II in Animal Studies and took the trip of a lifetime travelling to the stunning Sulewasi in Indonesia with Operation Wallacea. He split his two weeks over there between flora and fauna counts in a jungle and marine life counts on an island

After finishing school, Carl decided to pursue his passion for wildlife to the next stage and has continued with his studies, completing a cert III in Captive Animals. He’s dovetailed this with his valuable contributions as a volunteer as part of the RE family, and more volunteer work with the good folks over at Moonlit Sanctuary.

Sarah Bright

Feathers and Fur

Sarah Bright
Feathers and Fur

Sarah is an Animal and Veterinary Bioscience student with a burning passion for conservation. A perfect fit for the Reptile Encounter family in other words!

Her love of animals has brought her to the team here, and she is especially concerned about Australian natives. Sarah loves Australian natives for their uniqueness and fascinating traits, and is worried by how many of our own species are endangered. Because of this, her number one goal for 2019 is to finish her degree – so she can start working to help save endangered species as soon as possible.

Sarah thinks of herself as a lover of all animals equally, but also admits she harbours a huge soft spot for RE’s bat colonies!

Lola Viersé

Slithering

Lola Viersé
Slithering

Lola has been a top-notch team member at RE since August 2018. Before that she bounced around the globe a fair bit – living in four countries before landing in Australia, and encountering unique animals in each one. She moved to Australia to study Australian wildlife and now holds a bachelor’s degree with a major in Zoology.

Learning more about Australian native animals, particularly their behaviours and needs, is Lola’s main motivation for working at RE. She also wants to boost her skills in working with wildlife. One of her most outrageous experiences at RE was being simultaneously attacked by Yellow crested cockatoos while being overly loved by a corella!

Lola thinks that as Australia is home to such unique animals, working with them and educating others about them will open minds to become passionate about wildlife. She wants this to ultimately contribute to conservation efforts and protection of these beautiful creatures.

Lola’s favourite animals are the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, for their amazing smarts and flashy looks and also the cute miniature carnivores the Fat-tailed Dunnarts. Long-term, Lola wants to learn all areas of wildlife husbandry and find a full time position in wildlife conservation research or wildlife care.

Amanda Taylor

Dragons

Amanda Taylor
Dragons

Amanda has been volunteering with us for a fair few months now and has a colourful and fascinating backstory that includes primary school teaching in Victorian government schools, environmental consulting and sustainability education in local government. She’s always loved nature and wildlife and from a very young age could be found in her backyard searching for insects and minibeasts. Often she would then proudly present them to family and friends!

Deeply passionate about environmental education, Amanda has the goal of inspiring and empowering students to make a difference and live more sustainable lifestyles, reducing our impact on our environment.

She volunteers at RE “to support a fantastic business that is making a real difference to helping create better humans through education about our natural world”, and is racking up valuable experience as a wildlife ambassador. This has included getting to know Bearded Dragons, a species she finds captivating, inquisitive, adventurous and animated. Amanda’s even mulling over getting one as a pet!

Amanda thinks we are very fortunate to have some incredible native wildlife that is unique to our country, and on top of this she believes, “the rate of destruction of our environment including habitat loss and climate change is alarming and poses a significant threat to our amazing wildlife with many native species now threatened or endangered.” This is behind her motivation to educate and inspire the next generation to connect with nature, empowering them to join the fight to save our native wildlife before they are lost forever.

As 2019 rolls on, Amanda is looking to increase her knowledge of the incredible diversity of wildlife at Reptile Encounters, and gain experience as a Wildlife Ambassador through school incursions. She’s also aiming to develop curriculum materials for primary school teachers.

Melissa Mackay

Dragons

Melissa Mackay
Dragons

For as long as she can remember, Melissa has been fascinated by wildlife. A fascination heavily influenced by watching Steve Irwin documentaries and spurred on by a dream of one day working at Australia Zoo, the Irwin owned zoological park in Beerwah, QLD.

Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree in Biological Science – with a Zoology major – and is continuing her education by completing a TAFE certification in Captive Animals.

Working at Reptile Encounters has given Melissa an opportunity she has grasped with both hands, an opportunity to work with a wonderful variety of native Australian wildlife – from macropods to crocodiles and everything in between.

Melissa has also thrived on the social side that comes with being part of the family at RE. She’s been thrilled to meet and make friends with incredible, like-minded team members, while experiencing the hard (and rewarding!) work that goes into animal husbandry.

Her favourite animals to work with at RE are the lizard crew; she says, “their behaviours and little personalities are incredibly entertaining and no one day is ever the same.”

Audrey Yau

Dragons

Audrey Yau
Dragons

Audrey has had a keen interest in animals and the privilege of owning and caring for various types of animals throughout her life. Even the smallest of creatures like the red cherry shrimp appealed to teenage Audrey; and a quote from nature photographer and aquascaper, Takashi Amano, resonated with her: “to love Mother Nature is to love her smallest creations.” She followed her heart to Australia to pursue her love of animals by enrolling in Zoology at Monash University, which has been an absolute dream for her.

A volunteer at Reptile Encounters since summer 2018, Audrey joined the team “because there is no better way to learn more about animals than by getting up close and personal with them.” She plans to get her hands dirty and “gain more experience caring for and handling more types of animals, as well as meeting people who share the same love for animals as me.”

Audrey thinks herself lucky to have only been pooped on by Jack -our Laughing Kookaburra – and had Ferdinand – our Tawny Frogmouth – fly into her forehead! Still, that’s definitely more than enough to keep her on her toes!

A big supporter of Australian natives, Audrey thinks it’s essential to work with them because so many of them are endemic. She says this makes it super-critical to important to learn about them, educate others about them, and protect them.

Audrey has a tight connection with Pedro and thinks he’s lovely bird, “he never fails to give beak kisses and it’s always a mission to get him off your shoulders.” And she wants to give a shout out to the stickies who she also loves to bits!

Hannah Pel

Aquatics

Hannah Pel
Aquatics

Another huge animal lover, Hannah Pel has been part of the growing RE crew for a year and a half. She was originally drawn to us by this love of animals along with her desire to learn more about and work with Australian natives.

Hannah thinks RE is a great place to do placement – she enjoys nothing more than getting animals that aren’t used to being around people more comfortable around them. And she loves getting to know their unique traits and the things they like. A big fan of the aquatic animals, who she works with a lot of the time, Hannah also has a tight bond with Sammy, our black cockatoo.

Working with natives has been a super experience for Hannah because, not only has she learned heaps about loads of different species, she has been able to pass that knowledge on by teaching others. Hannah’s plan is to keep growing, learning and teaching in 2019, first by finishing her Animal Tech Tafe Course and then beginning a bachelor of science degree.

Thomas Ryan

Dragons

Thomas Ryan
Dragons

A fresh faced new member of the team, Thomas joined the RE family back in April and has made quite the impact. Thomas has combined his natural love for animals and the happiness he gets from working with them with studying for a Bachelor of Science at La Trobe University, where he is majoring in Genetics and Zoology.

Thomas volunteers at RE because he wants to help bring awareness to Australian species, and he says, “with a natural love of animals, it is a great place to work with like-minded individuals with the same goal.”

On the subject of Australian natives,Thomas thinks it is vital to work with them as a way of providing awareness about the large numbers of them that are currently threatened. And close to home, he has already managed to build a bond with plenty of the RE animal crew, with Fiona, the knob-tailed gecko being his particular favourite.

Looking to the year ahead, Thomas says his overarching goals is to “finish university and work towards finding a career working and caring for animals.”

Rhianne Manners

Feathers and Fur

Rhianne Manners
Feathers and Fur

As a youngster growing up in bonny Scotland, Rhianne experienced a very different variety of animals to the ones she’s encountered since moving down under. Her childhood consisted of raising froglets and releasing them back into the wild, bird-watching in her garden, and catching anything she could get her hands on.

Moving to Australia was a huge eye-opener for Rhianne. Her eyes were opened to a completely different variety of animals, Rhianne describes them as “so unique they still surprise me today”.

Rhianne thinks it’s vital Australians are educated about the animals that are native to this country, in particular as so many of them go unnoticed and underappreciated by the public.

Dovetailing her time as a popular team member here at RE with studying, Rhianne is currently completing her final year in Zoology at Monash University. In her spare time she loves getting out into the country to photograph animals in the wild.

Shanice Aeria

Slithering

Shanice Aeria
Slithering

Shanice knew she wanted to work with animals from when she was a mere ankle-biter and has always been super-passionate about them. As a kid, Shanice grew up watching endless wildlife documentaries and animal shows, which fuelled her obsession. Eventually this passion pushed her into seeking a career in wildlife care, conservation and rehabilitation.

Shanice is currently studying to be a vet nurse, specialising in Australian wildlife. And her ultimate goal is to one day work as part of Australia Zoo to help combat the decline of our native animals. Shanice says her stint here with the RE team has, “led her to being one step closer to my dream, by providing me with experience in caring for our wildlife.” But as well as this, she thinks seeing these critters and making sure they’re all in tip top shape is the highlight of her week!

Tanya LeDu

Farm

Tanya LeDu
Farm

Tanya has always had a love for animals, ever since she can remember. And of course, with this lifelong love of animals, Tanya fits like a glove at RE! As a youngster Tanya had the usual household pets – cats, dogs and birds – but was always much more fascinated with Australian native animals. She was awestruck by the vast number of amazing and unique species we’re so lucky to have here.

Young Tanya’s love of Australian native wildlife was nurtured with countless trips to zoos and wildlife parks up and down the state. And she knew all along that she just had to learn more about Australia’s native wildlife. Tanya’s favourite animals include the incredible sugar gliders and stunning flying foxes.

Jamieson Brodie

Wildlife Ambassador

Jamieson Brodie
Wildlife Ambassador

Jamieson has always loved reptiles because they are so different to other animals and possess so much personality. His favourite is definitely the Saltwater Crocodile, he finds them very interesting and enjoys seeing peoples reactions when he pulls one out at a show. Jamieson attended Lilydale High School, and has played a major role looking after all the critters in the schools Reptile House.

Jett

Chief of Security

Jett
Chief of Security

After completing puppy school in 2009 I was hired by Reptile Encounters to take care of security. Whilst Reptile Encounters already had many animals, none had what it takes to keep the property safe. On top of my security role I am also very good at cleaning up any food scraps.

Tom Symons

Dragons

Tom Symons
Dragons

With a Bachelor of Science with a Zoology major from Monash University under his belt, and stints as both a Hospital Assistant Volunteer for Healesville Sanctuary and a Volunteer Field Assistant for Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater, Tom is perfect Reptile Encounters material!

Joining the team this Autumn, Tom’s goal with RE is to increase his “native animal handling and husbandry experience,” he also aims to “get the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of incredible native species of all kinds”.

Tom’s most special RE moment of his fledgling career was “watching Pano (RE’s Monitor) learn to hit his large red NO button in response to questions!” And his favourite member of the crew so far is Bob the Shingleback. Tom says Bob is “a complete SUPERSTAR of a lizard!”

Passionate about Australian natives, Tom thinks that working towards their conservation “helps us connect with the world that surrounds us”, adding it “fosters an appreciation for the Australian environment and the incredible animals that comprise it, and a passion to help conserve it”.

Tom’s main goal for the coming year is to gain employment as a zoo-keeper or within a similar role in the field of wildlife conservation. Team RE wishes him the best of luck on his mission!

Christen Furber

Feathers and Fur

Christen Furber
Feathers and Fur

A new addition to the team here at Reptile Encounters, Christen is studying Zoology and looking to add hands-on experience to her academic pursuits. 2019 promises to be an eventful year for Christen: she has an ambitious goal to starting preparing her own sanctuary over the coming months.

Although Christen thinks the RE animals are adorable, they weren’t her only motivation for joining us. She also wants to gain valuable experience, have tonnes of fun and meet new people. And she’s still keenly waiting for a crazy story to happen to her. (We’re sure it won’t be long!)

Christen is a huge fan of both wolves and cats, but of the RE crew, she feels a special connection with the sugar gliders. It could be something to do with their lifestyle. Like Christen, they sleep during the day so they can party hard at night!

Stephanie Chan

Aquatics

Stephanie Chan
Aquatics

Steph’s love for nature led her to study a science degree in Wildlife Conservation. Gaining a deeper understanding of how our natural world works has been an enriching experience and has inspired her to share awareness with others. Australia’s wildlife is unique and fascinating, and Steph believes that it’s important that people understand whats living around them. “It would be horrible if people missed out on witnessing the beautiful and exciting wonders of nature. All this life and activity that surrounds us is disappearing, so we need more people to care and protect it from further harm”.

“Reptile Encounters has given me the opportunity to work with a variety of wonderful Australian native animals, many I hadn’t yet heard of. I learnt so much in the few months that I have been working here, and I am looking forward to learning and experiencing so much more.”

Michael Cameron

Slithering

Michael Cameron
Slithering

Michael graduated from Latrobe University last year with a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience, and joined the RE family a couple of months ago as a much-loved volunteer.

He joined up with RE specifically for the opportunities to work with snakes, “I work at RE because I have a passion for reptiles – specifically snakes – and I want to share that passion with everyone.”

And Michael’s a big fan of both protecting and raising awareness of Australian natives, stating it’s vitally important to work with them in order to “protect our natural ecosystems from further destruction and invasive species. And to educate the public on why we should be protecting them.”

A serious snake lover, it’s no surprise that Michael feels he has the greatest connection to our scaled friends: “I find them fascinating and so different from any other animal. I believe that they are very misunderstood and should be respected rather than feared.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Michael says: “my goal for 2019 is to become a demonstrator at RE and teach people about our amazing Australian wildlife.”

Jonathon Wilson

Feathers and Fur

Jonathon Wilson
Feathers and Fur

Another of our enthusiastic newbies here at team Reptile Encounters, Jonathon is a Wildlife and Conservation Biology graduate from Deakin University.

Having been volunteering at Healesville Sanctuary for a year, he decided to combine this work with a stint at Reptile Encounters (luckily for us!) around a month ago. This was after his friend Mel – another RE champion – recommended the experience to him. And Jonathon is super-keen to get more experience working with the various animals and wildlife both at Reptile Encounters HQ and further afield.

We asked JW what the most outrageous thing that has happened to him so far is: “A squirrel glider peed on me while I was doing his health check!” That one might be hard to top…

Jonathon is passionate about our natives “because so many of them are endangered and I want to do what I can to help stop that and to help conserve those species for the future.” And, partly because of this, his goal for 2019 is to get a firm start in a career in the environment sector.

Finally, his favourite member of the RE family? “Probably Roman, the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, because he seems to like me and he shows off when he sees me and I get to bring him his food on Wednesdays!”

Talia Van Bockel

Dragons

Talia Van Bockel
Dragons

We’re delighted to have Talia back on board at RE. She became a very popular member of the RE crew after previous stints as a volunteer with us back in 2013 and 2017, so we were super-excited to bring her back into the fold a couple of months back!

Talia is studying Wildlife and Conservation Biology and says she was always passionate about invertebrates growing up. “I bred stick insects for 6 years and kept numerous creatures throughout school. Now my interests are broadening to reptiles, especially snakes.”

When we asked her about her motivation for volunteering with the RE team Talia said she came back “because it brings me joy! I love the people, I love caring for and handling the animals and I love learning.”

Talia had a few contenders for the most outrageous thing to happen to her at RE, but one stuck in her memory in particular: “When cleaning one of the Black-headed python enclosures, I got nipped on the leg! Once the adrenaline had calmed down, I was thrilled, as I’ve always wanted to know what being bitten by a snake was like!”

When it comes to the importance of working closely with Australian Natives, Talia has strong and passionate views: “Without passionate people working with the creatures found in our own backyards, no one will understand them, get excited about them and pass that interest onto others, and we would lose our unique and amazing wildlife.”

As a lover of all the invertebrates, snakes and lizards, Talia has a tough time choosing the animal she has the greatest connection to, but in the end goes for Connie/Connor the Barking Owl – she has a huge soft spot for all the birds too!

Looking ahead to 2019, Talia hopes to “continue learning and grow my knowledge of our native wildlife. I also want to gain experience and confidence in handling a wide variety of our unusual animals.” Sounds like a masterplan to us!

Kristine Kalis

Aquatics

Kristine Kalis
Aquatics

Kristine joined RE as a volunteer a couple of months back with a colourful history behind her as an avian keeper at the exotic Jurong Bird Park in Singapore!

KK is currently studying Zoology at Monash University and is the proud owner of two lovely adopted guinea pigs – Peanut and Nutella – (no prizes for guessing what she puts on her toast in the morning…) and Maki – a stunning sun conure!

Kristine joined the RE clan as she says she “wanted to explore other animals and help conserve Australia’s wildlife, while learning and experiencing as much as I can.” Her craziest RE story, finding a snake on the loose, certainly was an experience we think!

Strongly opinionated and passionate on the importance of working with Australian natives, Kristine says: “Australia holds a rich biodiversity and is home to many animals, and the global threat of climate change is changing the world we live in, especially so for animals.” She also thinks that “because Australian Natives are facing these challenges and some species are becoming endangered…. it is important to work with them so we can learn their patterns of behaviour and lifestyle requirements, so we can help nurture and rehabilitate them in a safe place.” Well said, Kristine!

Kristine has developed a bond with adorable Dave, our long-nosed Potoroo, she says he “always says ‘hi’ when coming out to get his lunch!”

And her goal for 2019? Kristine would love to be able to work on the Birds of Prey team here at Reptile Encounters. She wants to push herself to get out of her comfort zone and take a shot at demonstrating, which she thinks would be a very daunting experience.

Finally, with her graduation fast approaching this year, she is aiming to find a job she loves doing – hopefully with animals!

Sam Holland

Feathers and Fur

Sam Holland
Feathers and Fur

Having been on the RE roster for just over a month, Sam is another one of our new additions who is making a fine impression on the team. Born in the southern suburbs of Melbourne, and with half-Australian half-Polish roots, Sam describes himself as “born to love animals”.

During his childhood, Sam says he was “inundated with a variety of different creatures.” The path he followed was only natural then. “My love of animals grew and grew, and so I decided to study Zoology. And recently, I completed my Honours in Zoology at the University of Melbourne.”

Sam joined RE with the aiming of helping out and spending time with countless beautiful animals, and he’s already clocked up a couple of funny stories to tell. “One time, whilst cleaning out one of the enclosures, a red-tailed black cockatoo by the name of Roman hopped onto the head of one of my co-volunteers, Jono. Roman then proceeded to perform a mating ritual, which involved many thrusting movements, much to the dismay of Jono!” Oh how we wish we’d been there to see that!
As part of his love for animals, Sam is also super-passionate about Australian natives: “There are many critically endangered native species that, whether it be from habitat destruction, ecosystem collapse or predation, will soon go extinct if there is no intervention.” Sam wants widespread and urgent action to address this: “Therefore it is critical that we take active steps to recognise and prevent this possibility.”

Even though he’s only been with us for a short time, Sam has already built up great bonds with a number of our family – saying he has a great connection to Pete the pademelon, as well as Quilla and Berry, the eclectus parrots.

An ambitious young chap, Sam’s goal for the remainder of 2019 is to “spend as much time as possible working with animals.” He says he also needs to “attempt to materialise a career path, as well as to decide on the direction of any further study I choose to do.” All the best to Sam with his ambitions!

Elise Kinnaird

Slithering

Elise Kinnaird
Slithering

Our much loved volunteer Elise started with the RE clan back in April and combines her time here with studying for a Bachelor of Veterinary and Animal Biosciences at La Trobe University and working at Hallam Pet Park Resort. Just in case that wasn’t enough, Elise also volunteers with Warriors 4 Wildlife, helping to rescue needy and injured wildlife. Good on ya Elise, we say!

And Elise has a rich history of working with nature and wildlife prior to this. In 2018 she worked as a ‘Nature Specialist’ in a camp in the US, teaching children about the care and conservation of different species. She has also volunteered at RSPCA, gaining her Cert II in Animal Studies with them too. Finally, she also completed a spell with the Ecology Centre in Cape Otway, helping out on their annual Koala Survey.

Joining us as part of the April 2019 intake, Elise is pursuing a career in the animal industry and says “working with these wonderful animals at RE is an amazing experience. Especially the snakes!” She’s already made a friend too, Elise says “I love Echo our Alpine Blotched Blue Tongue Lizard because she’s a little bit nervous but once she knows you she relaxes easily.”

Elise thinks it’s vital to work with Australian natives as “it helps us if we have a better understanding of these amazing animals ourselves, so that we can then better educate the public about them.”

Finally, Elise’s goals for 2019 is to finish her first year of university with good marks. As for an RE goal, she’s aiming to eventually become a demonstrator once she’s more confident with everything.

TESTIMONIAL

Madeleine Vezis

I booked a show with Reptile Encounters for my son's 3rd birthday party after finding them online. My son LOVED the show even if at first he was a little scared. All the kids got to touch all the animals and really enjoyed the show.

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Emily and Tammy EACH Social and Community Health

Just wanted to thank you again for your generosity. We really wanted to offer the girls a special way to celebrate the completion of a therapeutic group which involved exploring how depression and anxiety affects their...

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Blair Colwell City of Whittlesea

I first came across Reptile Encounters when you delivered a show at my work place for young people with a disability. I was so impressed that I thought I would hire your show for my nephews third birthday. In many families...

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