What does a park ranger do?
Chris' working day begins at 8am, when he makes his daily round of the reptile house, making sure that the animals are presentable for the visitors. On the weekends and through the holidays, Chris takes groups on tours through the park, and does feeding shows with the animals- the alligator feeding show is a true heart-stopper. The remainder of the day is spent making up feed for the animals and doing a whole lot of cleaning.
How did you become a park ranger?
Chris' career runs in the family. He grew up listening to his dad talk about different kinds of animals and reptiles, little suspecting that one day all that information would come in handy. Now twenty-six, Chris works full-time at the Ballarat Wildlife and Reptile Park, which was founded by his father.
What's the best thing about being a park ranger?
The amount of cleaning involved with this kind of career is unbelievable, so it's just as well that Chris loves what he does. He could be having an awful morning, but the animals always cheer him up. He also loves speaking to people who are genuinely interested in the animals. 'Animals belong in the wild,' says Chris, 'They're here so people can enjoy them.' He can't stand people who are disrespectful towards the animals.
And the worst thing?
Chris says the most difficult part of his job would be seeing the animals he's grown to love pass away. Some animals have lived at the park for up to fifteen years, and when they die it's an awful time for Chris. 'It's like losing a mate.'
Some of his mates have left Chris with some interesting stories to tell and some impressive scars, including a very large wound from an angry wombat. With all the bites, you'd think that Chris would be terrified to go into an alligator enclosure, but 'a little nervous' is as far as it goes. Chris says that if he doesn't panic, then all will be fine. Easy for him to say!
What skills do you need to be a park ranger?
Bites aside, Chris is getting paid for what he loves to do - working with animals. But without all the information he's picked up, he wouldn't be where he is today. Chris gained all his animal knowledge learning on the job, which he says is the probably the best way to learn. There are different courses available, but an ability to empathise with the animals is far more important than a piece of paper.
If you're interested in becoming a ranger, Chris suggests that you volunteer. This is how you get a foot in the door. Volunteering will give you the chance to show off your abilities. Work hard and it should pay off. Another bit of advice from Chris for aspiring rangers - 'Get used to being bitten!'
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).