Have you ever thought how cool it would be to spend your day holding snakes or looking after blue-tongue lizards? Or what it would be like speaking to crowds of school kids about crocodiles?
Well, in our exciting news series we’re going to meet and get to know some of our lovely staff here at Reptile Encounters. What makes them tick? What started their love for animals? What is their most memorable Reptile Encounters moment? Our very own Reptile Encounters Reporter is going to find out all about them, showing you the personalities behind the reptiles.
In our first week, we meet Kara U’Ren, a 28 year old Wildlife Ambassador, animal lover and self-confessed nerd!
Kara with some flippered friends
Reptile Encounters Reporter: So, Kara, to kick off tell us a little about yourself, what do you like getting up to?
Kara U’Ren: Well, I’m 28 years old and I live in Brunswick East. Although I enjoy the great variety of food in my area, I’m no hipster! I must admit I’m a bit of a nerd, as I love all things Tolkien, Batman, Marvel, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. In my spare time I love swimming, dancing, photography, travelling and, of course, animals…
Kara doesn’t hide her love for Batman
RER: So what do you love most about animals?
KU: Animals are amazing! And there are always new amazing things to learn about them. I’m fascinated by animal behaviour and ecology, especially reproduction, courtship and selection. I feel very lucky to have studied and currently work in the field I love the most and am most interested in.
RER: And how did you get to work with animals and at Reptile Encounters?
KU: So, I studied Animal and Veterinary Bioscience at La Trobe University, and completed my studies in 2008, graduating in 2009. I started working with Reptile Encounters as a Wildlife Presenter in 2013, and my role changed to a Wildlife Ambassador in 2015.
RER: And a big one – what’s your favourite animal and why?
KU: The Australian Sea Lion! They are the only seal native to Australia, and they live along the southern coast, from Western Australia to South Australia. Pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, are beautifully powerful predators. The Australian fur Seal has gorgeous colours, and is a special Australian native animal.
The Australian Sea Lion
RER: And tell us a bit about your favourite Reptile Encounters animal.
KU: It has to be Victor, our very own Murray Darling Carpet Python. He was great in helping me to learn how to handle snakes. He has such a funny personality – he’s a bit fat and a bit lazy! But he’s beautiful.
RER: And what’s the weirdest animal fact you know?
KU: The Rough-Scaled Python has evolved longer teeth than other pythons, because one of its main prey in the wild is a marsupial mouse with the ability to shed its hair when being attacked so it could escape from snakes. But the Rough-Scaled Python can sink its longer teeth deeper into the mouse so that it can’t escape. It’s the evolutionary arms race!
The Rough-Scaled Python
RER: And, finally, what is your most memorable moment working with Reptile Encounters?
KU: Two memorable moments come to mind. Doing my first VCE show for a Year 11 Biology class. It was a Friday afternoon, last period, the students were reasonably interactive, but getting volunteers to come stand in front of the class to hold an animal was like pulling-teeth, they were just too cool for that… that is until the crocodile came out . Now, unfortunately I ran a little bit over time and the bell for the end of the day went, so I asked them if they would mind staying back a few extra minutes so I could finish talking about the croc. They all wanted to and, after my talk, they all wanted a hold of the croc too!
On another occasion, during question time a Grade 1 student asked if the crocodile gets visited by the tooth fairy! I had to laugh, but said to her that the tooth fairy would probably go broke if she visited crocodiles, because they always lose and regrow their teeth.