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Meet Tim Faulkner, wildlife whisperer

Australian wildlife expert Tim Faulkner talks to us about his love of animals and passion for conservation.

By Georgia Rickard
Published: 28 November, 2017

Tim Faulkner might just have the world’s coolest job. The Aussie wildlife expert — whose television show The Wild Life of Tim Faulkner is shown in 150 countries to an audience of 180 million people — is an Aussie wildlife expert, passionate conservationist and general manager of the amazing wildlife reserve near Sydney, Australian Reptile Park. He’s also a proud member of the Friends of Australia family. We chat to Faulkner about milking deadly spiders, Australia’s crankiest crocodile and pats with George the wombat.

Q&A with Tim Faulkner, Australian wildlife expert

Walk us through your job. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

“It’s hard to say what I do on a day-to-day basis. There’s always something different happening! Every morning, the first thing I do is pop my head in to say hi to George the wombat and give him a big scratch. When he was tiny, he stayed with my family for a little while, so I definitely have a soft spot for him. Then I head to my office and check emails. After that I head out into the Australian Reptile Park to do a walk around. As the general manager of the park, I basically oversee everything. So I’ll look at all the enclosures, check on the animals and check in with all of my staff. On any given day I could be checking the pouch of a koala for a new joey, jumping in with Elvis the crocodile to help with one of his feeds or even heading into our venom section to assist the keepers with a health check on one of our venomous snakes. Otherwise, I’m in the bush with family or filming documentaries about Australian wildlife.”

Tim Faulkner with Galapagos tortoise, Australian Reptile Park, Somersby, New South Wales

How did you become so interested in animals/passionate about conservation?

“I’ve always loved animals ever since I was a little fella living in Western Sydney. I used to catch skinks in my backyard, go bushwalking with my parents on weekends and catch tadpoles down at the creek. I started working at a wildlife park when I was in my early twenties. I moved to the Australian Reptile Park to be head of the mammals and birds section. During that time, I continued to learn about our unique Australian wildlife. I always had this yearning to do what I could to save our endangered species. I’ve witnessed so much loss and hardship to wildlife, even in my short time on Earth, and have always felt I need to do more to keep it as I saw it when I was a kid.” 

Can you tell us about the Australian Reptile Park?

“The reptile park is no ordinary zoo. We are a wildlife sanctuary located on the Central Coast of New South Wales, roughly an hour north of Sydney. We’ve got one of the largest reptile collections in Australia, including native and exotic species, but we also have other Australian species the world has grown to love. You can cuddle up to a koala for a photo, hand-feed kangaroos and see platypus, echidnas, quokkas, dingoes, wallabies and emus. The park was one of the first private zoos in Australia and it has a long history of native wildlife, education, conservation — and antivenom production.” 

Tim Faulkner with Tasmanian devil, Australian Reptile Park, Somersby, New South Wales

Is this why you’re known for “milking” the deadly funnel-web spider?

“The Australian Reptile Park is the only zoo (in fact only place) where the deadly funnel-web spider is milked for its venom to make antivenom. The funnel-web is the most venomous spider in Australia. Milking them is not an easy process. We run a light vacuum through a glass pipette and get a funnel-web to rear up at us, then use the pipette to gently suck the venom off its fangs. Then we freeze the venom and send it off to be made into antivenom. Since our program was put in place in 1981, not a single person has died from a funnel-web spider bite. It truly is a life-saving program!”

What’s the one thing we should do when we visit the park?

“See Elvis, of course! Australia’s crankiest, lawnmower-eating croc is absolutely my favourite. Everyone should see him in action. But it’s hard to pick just one thing. Visitors tell us highlights include meeting Hugo the Galapagos tortoise on his daily walk, feeding a kangaroo, patting a koala, meeting Tassie devil joeys, our unique Lost World of Reptiles exhibit… I could literally list everything at the park if I had time. I’ve been at the Australian Reptile Park for just over 10 years and absolutely love it.”

Tim Faulkner, Devil Ark, Gosford, New South Wales

Is there anything else you’d recommend people do when they come to visit?

“I may be biased, but I think the Central Coast has some of the most amazing beaches in all of Australia. All you need to do is take one look at Terrigal Beach and you’ll fall in love! The nature is amazing, there are many bush walks, the food is fantastic with lots of great restaurants in the area — and you can’t miss the gorgeous Somersby Falls. It’s just five minutes from the park.”

What’s your favourite part of your job?

“Undoubtedly it’s sharing my passion and love for wildlife with the next generation. Kids are the future of our wildlife and between the Reptile Park and making documentaries, I’m able to take Australian wildlife to the kids of the world. But it’s also hard to go past the importance of the conservation work we do. The Australian Reptile Park was one of the founding partners of Devil Ark, a conservation breeding program for the endangered Tasmanian devil. Since its inception in 2011, we have bred over 250 Tasmanian devil joeys, and now have the most successful and largest population of Tasmanian devils on mainland Australia. Helping save a species is just a feeling you really can’t describe, or beat.”

Next, here’s where to meet Australia’s cutest animals.