Melbourne's Mobile Zoo | Josh Cox | About Reptile Encounters
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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 twelve years and are of the highest standard. Reptile Encounters has been recognised as a finalist in the Australian Small Business Champion awards in 2016 and 2017.

Our 18 memorable, entertaining and educational wildlife incursions will excite and inspire students and teachers to reconnect with the world around them. 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 2020), 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.

Fay Gregory

Life Sciences Manager

Fay Gregory
Life Sciences Manager

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.

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!

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.

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!

Michael Cameron

Wildlife Ambassador

Michael Cameron
Wildlife Ambassador

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.”

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.

Elaine Brock

Pathways Facilitator and Monitor Keeper

Elaine Brock
Pathways Facilitator and 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 and Pathways Facilitator

Sam Ljiljak
Godzilla and Pathways Facilitator

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.

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.”

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!”

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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