BOB AND DEL FLEMMING
Bob and Del built Billabong Sanctuary literally from the ground up, starting from a bare paddock and developing the park into an award-winning Eco-tourism attraction [more info here].
Through the years they’ve both remained actively involved in all aspects of the operation of their family-owned business, from frying chips to feeding crocs.
Bob is General Manager, overseeing staffing, infrastructure and legislative requirements….. and now and then he still finds time to feed a hungry croc.
These days Del enjoys semi-retirement behind the scenes, but is still very much involved in decision making, and encouraging and supporting the work of the whole team.
Our Rangers are an incredibly talented mob, ferociously dedicated to wildlife conservation. They come from diverse backgrounds, but all are passionate about working in their ‘dream job’ caring for our native wildlife and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Everyone has a hand in the day to day care of the park: raking paths, cleaning enclosures, preparing special food for each animal, conducting tours, and presenting the daily shows. In addition all have extra responsibilities according to their special interests and talents:
SENIOR RANGER RAY STEPHENS
Ray started his zoo keeping career as a volunteer at the former Cairns Wildlife Safari, where he soon found himself caring for the big cats, hand-feeding cheetahs, tigers and lions. His love affair with these magnificent creatures continued at ZooDoo in Tasmania. Initially employed there as Senior Keeper, Ray was soon promoted to Park Manager.
Here at Billabong Sanctuary, Ray supervises day-to-day operations, ensuring that shows are running smoothly and that Rangers in charge of mammals, birds and reptiles are providing the best possible care to our native animals. Watch for Ray in the crocodile enclosures, as he continues his training to work with our big males. Although no stranger to large predators, Ray admits that crocs actually present more of a challenge than lions and tigers. We know he will meet that challenge and will soon be part of the team presenting those exciting croc-feeding shows!
A marine biologist who worked as an aquarist for 9 years, Ranger Chris is our Reptile Specialist.
Chris has his own reptile collection at home, where he has an entire room devoted to venomous snakes, pythons, geckos and leaf insects. He’s one of the few wildlife carers in north Queensland qualified to rehabilitate turtles, venomous snakes and sea snakes
Obviously he’s no stranger to feeding large scaly creatures, and has progressed through all his training so he can now present our exciting croc feeding shows. At other times you may see him strolling past with a tubful of mealworms and a pair of tweezers, off to feed our smaller lizards.
Ranger Chris is building and diversifying our reptile collection, and enhancing their enclosures to give visitors more opportunities to marvel at these fascinating creatures. Have you seen the new terrarium in the Visitor Information Centre? It’s now home to a beautiful green tree python .
Chris is very comfortable in front of a crowd, though he spent years giving talks from inside a coral reef tank! His easy-going manner and love of his subject make all of his shows a delight to watch.
One of our most experienced Rangers, Jeremy is equally at home presenting the free-flight bird show, showcasing venomous snakes or feeding our big male crocs. He supervises the training protocols to ensure that all Rangers working with crocodiles are fully qualified, with safety the highest priority.
As our specialist Bird Ranger, Jeremy is responsible for bird husbandry and training, and is preparing an instruction manual to ensure consistency in the handling of our amazing free-flight birds.
The success of this show is a tribute to persistence and patience of all our Rangers. As time allows, Jeremy is training more birds to join the spectacular free-flight display.
Ranger Renée is the mammal specialist on our team. She has overall responsibility for the health, husbandry and housing of our native mammal collection, everything from the free-ranging kangaroos to those cuddly koalas. On any given day you might see her in the park weighing a wombat, pampering a pademelon, or coming to grips with a prickly echidna.
Renee has recently been appointed Safety Officer, in charge of everything from emergency procedures to keeping the first aid kits stocked with band aids and Betadine.
Renée is also an experienced presenter of wildlife shows, with extensive knowledge gained from her time at Wild Life on Hamilton Island.
Ranger Jules’ abiding passion is the dingo. Apart from working here as a full-time Ranger, she donates her free time to training our dingoes and advising other Rangers on their husbandry and handling. Jules is also a driving force behind the Australian Dingo Coalition.
Jules is an experienced presenter of wildlife shows with wide-ranging knowledge of native animal biology and behaviour.
She has also been taking on an increasingly active administrative role behind the scenes, including management of our Volunteer Programme. Volunteers at Billabong Sanctuary work alongside our Rangers and are an invaluable asset to the team. Jules ensures that they receive the respect and recognition that they deserve.
Before joining us as a Ranger, Kimberley worked as a supervisor at Crocosaurus in Darwin, where she helped to train the big boys—estuarine crocs over 5 metres in length! She’s rapidly getting to know our own salties, and is presenting most feeding shows already.
Kimberley is the official ‘sidekick’ to our Reptile Ranger Chris, mainly assisting with cleaning and maintenance of croc enclosures, and will soon start training to handle venomous snakes.
She enjoys expanding her knowledge of our other native animals, and sharing it during the reptile and mammal shows. Busy as she is, Kimberley still finds spare time to create enrichment activities, such as food cages for the red-tailed black cockatoos.
Ranger Pio is an exceptional young man in so many ways. Whilst still in high school, he spent 2 days a week with us for nearly 2 years, a traineeship position made possible through a special arrangement between Billabong Sanctuary and Skill360 Australia.
Our Rangers took him under their collective wing, mentoring him in skills and knowledge to use in his chosen career working with wildlife.
One of the highlights of our 30 Years Wild birthday celebrations was Pio’s talk on Torres Strait Islander culture, followed by traditional dancing and singing featuring his extended family. What a treat! Dozens of Junior Rangers have enjoyed wildlife adventures enthusiastically led by Pio during school holiday programmes.
Having recently graduated, Pio now joins the team as a full-time Ranger and is gradually taking on responsibility for presenting more and more of the daily wildlife talks.
Pio’s gentle nature and cheerful disposition make him a favorite with both our animals and with visitors young and old lucky enough to meet him during feeding shows and tours.
Elyse enjoys working with all of our native animals, but admits to having a few favourites:
Working with Jeremy behind the scenes to train our birds of prey,she has formed a special bond with Roxy the barking owl. As her training progresses, watch for her at the Free Flight Bird Show. Elyse has also been working with Thunder, our wedge-tailed eagle, with the goal of bringing him out to interact with the public.
After wrangling everything from camels to elephants in her previous job, Elyse was keen to accept new challenges, and has now completed her training to present the mid-day Venomous Snake Show, showcasing some of the most venomous snakes on the planet, from death adders to taipans.
You will meet Elyse presenting other shows throughout the day, where her depth of knowledge, engaging personality and cheerful smile have made her a favourite with the public.
We value highly the contribution of our casual ranger staff. All started out here as volunteers, and it is a tribute to their passion for native animals and their dedication to conservation that they are progressively taking on all the duties of a full-time ranger. Their assistance during busy times is especially valuable, as they are called in to present shows and lead tour groups.
Last November long-time volunteer Tabatha traded in her green t-shirt for a Ranger uniform. Since then she has played an increasingly public role, presenting most wildlife shows and leading tour groups. She is an engaging speaker, with wide knowledge and an easy rapport with her audience. Next step is to start training to work with our free-flight birds. Originally from Perth, where she volunteered in a wildlife rehabilitation centre, Tabatha is a qualified wildlife carer with a special interest in possums. Currently working on her TAFE Certificate III in Captive Animals, she hopes to make zookeeping a full-time career.
Shop Manager Gabby, her assistant Tammy, and their co-workers Mellee, Summer and Tiffany are our hard-working front-of-house team.
They answer the phones and welcome visitors with a friendly smile and tips on making the most of their day (“Would you like a bag of seeds to feed the kangaroos?”).
From Blinky Bill’s Café they serve a tempting array of snack and meals to satisfy even the heartiest appetite– from Devonshire teas to Tammy’s famous lasagne.
Responding to customer requests, they add new items to the menu such as veggie wraps, gluten-free options and the delectable ‘Billabong Burger’.
The team will also fire up the barbecue to cater for tour groups, parties and meetings.
Mellee keeps the Gift Shop stocked with a variety of souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home.
Overall, they complement the work of the Rangers to ensure that everyone who comes through the door enjoys the best possible time in our native wildlife sanctuary.
Moggsie takes care of all the infrastructure of Billabong Sanctuary, including the grounds, the enclosures and buildings. On any one day you could find him laying new irrigation pipes for the croc ponds, fixing a leaky toilet, or installing air conditioners in the wombats’ bedrooms. He loves working with the animals, and is happy to wrangle a feisty lizard so it can be medicated, or shift half a ton of cranky crocodile into a new pond.
Moggsie realized a long-term goal to gradually rebuild enclosures damaged by Cyclone Yasi , so the back of the park could be re-opened to the public. Visitors can now stroll all the way around the billabong, where new displays feature native animals including a scrub python, emus, budgies and the endangered greater bilby.
HONORARY RANGER SHEILA BRUNSKILL
Sheila is a local resident living on acreage with her husband Gregg at nearby Alligator Creek with an abundance of wildlife visitors to her backyard, some being hand-reared and then released by Sheila into the wild, but returning on a regular basis. Billabong Sanctuary has been most fortunate to benefit from Sheila’s passion for Australian wildlife as she is our longest serving staff member, although in an honorary capacity.
Sheila loves Billabong’s philosophy of introducing local children to Aussie animals and providing international visitors an introduction to Australia’s unique fauna – where to see them in the wild and help in their conservation through our Billabong message.
The stories and updates you read on the Billabong website and Facebook on births, acquisitions of fauna, introducing new staff members, coming events such as school holiday programmes are all sourced by Sheila after consulting with Billabong staff.
Billabong management utilize Sheila’s love of the Sanctuary as a sounding board, as she is very close to issues which make the Billabong a unique eco based attraction.